for Poison-dart Frogs on Panama's Atlantic Coast
by Joe McSharry
hit hard, pounding my Gortex jacket, searching for a way in.
I really wanted to find a warm, thatch-roofed hut to hide
in until it subsided, but we needed to get back to the boat.
We followed the trail through the village and into the marsh
where we cautiously inched our way along submerged logs. The
day before it was difficult to find the logs in the calf-deep,
murky water, but now it was thigh-deep and almost black. The
sound of the rain caused the living jewels we had collected
to start chirping inside the clear, plastic bags.
Wisnieski in village on Bastimentos Island
passed by a tin-roofed shack with a rickety, wood pigpen and
continued on to the beach. When we walked the shore on our
way in, the waves gently stirred the grains of sand. Now the
shore had disappeared and the surf was ripping at the roots
of the palms at the forest's edge, forcing us to make our
way through the thick, forest undergrowth. We braved the rising
waves and torrential downpour as we pushed our twelve-foot
johnboat out into the swelling
bay and started the engine. We road the swells, at times unable
to see land because of the mounds of water around us. John
eased the tension as he brought out his collapsible fishing
rod and proceeded to catch dinner. Then gray slowly gave way
to crimson and gold on the horizon, the rain subsided, and
we were back in town enjoying a warm shower, dry clothes,
and a fresh fish dinner.
johnboat at dock. The structure at the end of the pier
is an outhouse.
had started a couple of weeks earlier when Anthony Wisnieski,
Curator of Reptiles and Amphibians at the Baltimore Zoo, and
I left our homes in Baltimore, Maryland, USA, to drive to
David, Panama. There we met Dr. John Daly, Chief of Bio Organic
Chemistry at the National Institute of Health (NIH) in the
United States. The objective of the trip was to collect several
morphs of the highly variable species of poison frog, Dendrobates
pumilio. Our plan was to visit several locations where
different populations of this species were known to exist.
We wanted to collect specimens from these populations for
several reasons. Some were to be used at NIH to study the
differences in toxins of the various groups. Others were to
go to a university to study
their breeding habits. The majority was collected for breeding
and display purposes at several zoos and aquariums.
on one of the islands show off their new baby brother.
happily playing with a nail and one another.