Individual identification, disease monitoring and home range of Leiopelma hamiltoni
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Science
Amphibian populations are declining on a global scale and although disease outbreaks are a commonly accepted hypothesis they are not the only one. My aims for my thesis were to study the home range of Leiopelma hamiltoni, to determine whether a photographic database could be used to individual identified them and monitor the health status of the population. Habitat loss is a possible cause. For this reason monitoring an animals' home range is a possible method to detect early impacts the population is facing. By tracking 12 L. hamiltoni within a 12 m x 6 m grid on Maud Island, it was shown that the home range size can vary from 0.5 m2 to 25 m2 based on the minimum convex polygon method. However, to track multiple individuals it is important to be able to distinguish among frogs. The commonly used methods of identification, such as toe clipping, pose potentially detrimental effects. Therefore, non-invasive methods based on natural markings need to be established. Through the use of the dark pigmented patterns found on the skin of L. hamiltoni individuals can be identified on recapture with a mean accuracy of 93%. By developing a database to maintain the photographs used for individual identification, the database can also be used to monitor the status of the population. During 2003 numerous L. hamiltoni were observed with denuded patches predominantly on the facial region. By monitoring five individuals within the captive facility at the University of Canterbury it was discovered that frogs appear to be able to cure themselves. Through researching the home range requirements and developing a photographic database to monitor the population status of L. hamiltoni, it will aid in the management of ensuring the long-term survival of this archaic species of frog.