Water frog information -- Newsletter October 1998

Website: http://waterfrogs.scs.fsu.edu/waterfrogs.html

Distribution: Peter Beerli (beerli@scs.fsu.edu)

Address Questions/Remarks to items in this newsletter to
frog@genetics.washington.edu or the respective authors of

Organizational questions to beerli@scs.fsu.edu

Contributions from: Trevor Beebee, Dirk Schmeller, Nusa Vogrin


Dear colleagues-  A year after the reactivation of an electronic water
frog newsletter and many additions and changes to the WIP-website at
http://waterfrogs.scs.fsu.edu (maintained by Peter Beerli
with help from contributors), it is time to review our progress. Right
now 64 scientists are listed at the server, but about another 50 also
get the newsletter from colleagues. On average, one new scientist is
added to the list every month. The number of visitors to the site
increased from approximately 10000 in 1997 to over 16000 up to
September 1998 Although this increase may partly result from growth of
the internet, it also probably reflects improvements in the site that
make it both more attractive and more useful. Many questions from
pupils, students and others were addressed to us; these questions give
us an idea of the amount and kind of interest in the WIP-site.

Despite this considerable progress, the newsletter is kind of a sick
child. We started a healthy newsletter service in 1997 and early 1998,
but the information flow from users and readers towards Peter and me
decreased very quickly. This is the main reason that we have not
distributed a monthly newsletter; right now we have not had a
newsletter for several month. I want, therefore, to stress some ideas
how each of you can help make a better newsletter. In every lab
problems occur, meetings are announced, and other questions discussed.
Collect these tidbits of information and send them to Peter
(beerli@scs.fsu.edu) or Dirk
(dirk@hydra.biologie.Uni-Mainz.DE). If you send general information, we
will include it in the next newsletter. If it is urgent, Peter will
send it immediately to all scientists on the list.  Now that I have
complained about missing contributions, I wish you lots of success and
hope that, together, we will be able to heal our sick child.

Dirk Schmeller Mainz, 3 September 1998


(1) A short description of one of the "water frog labs." Trevor Beebee
sent us this letter at the beginning of 1998, but the content still
describes at least part of his interest. (Peter Beerli/Thomas Uzzell)

(2) Summary of a meeting of people interested in water frogs at the
last SEH meeting (Nusa Vogrin/Dirk Schmeller)

(3) Initiation of a new column on Morphology/Development/Gametogenesis
(edited by Maria Ogielska)

(1) Trevor Beebee's group in Sussex (UK):

At Sussex we have recently begun studies in two areas of water frog
Ecology.  (1) The question as to whether Rana lessonae might be native
to Britain. Conventional wisdom has it that all water frog populations
in Britain (we have R. lessonae, R. esculenta and R. ridibunda) are the
result of deliberate introductions over the past 150+ years. Recent
(mostly circumstantial) evidence suggests, however, that R. lessonae
may have been native to some fenland areas of eastern England, though
the last population has recently become extinct there. Subfossil bone
fragments have been found, but their identification is controversial.
We have therefore begun to attempt the use of molecular methods for
identifying frog bone fragments. To this end we have developed a
procedure for extracting DNA from frog bones that gives material
suitable for PCR. So far we have only tried RAPD tests (not an ideal
approach to this problem) using species-specific primers. To our
surprise this worked on some frog bones of unknown age from a cave in
Ireland, but not with the fen samples. Now we are considering the
development of specific mtDNA primers, which should provide a better
and more sensitive test. (2) The effects of bottlenecks on introduced
populations. The introduction of Rana ridibunda into Britain is known
in great detail (i.e. where the frogs came from, how many, and exactly
where and when they were released). This provides a good "experiment"
to look at bottlenecking effects. We are presently developing RAPD
primers suitable for population genetic studies, with a view to
analyzing the genetic structures of British, Hungarian (source of
origin) and Swiss (also introduced) R. ridibunda populations. In this
project, mainly undertaken by Inga Zeisset in this laboratory, we are
collaborating with Miklos Puky (Budapest) and Uli Reyer (Zurich). We
would also be very interested in collaborating with other groups,
especially with a view to the development of microsatellite marker loci
for these frogs.

So far we have just one publication:

Zeisset, Inga, and Trevor J. C. Beebee.  RAPD identification of north
European water frogs. AMPHIBIA-REPTILIA 19(2): 163-170 (May 1998).
Abstract:  A technique for the identification of north European water
frogs (Rana lessonae, R. ridibunda and R. esculenta) based on PCR
(polymerase chain reaction)-amplification of DNA using random primers
(RAPD) is presented. The method requires very small amounts (< 2 mg) of
tissue and reliably distinguished the three types of frogs using
samples taken from two widely separate localities (Britain and Poland).
In addition, the primers distinguished the DNA of water frogs from that
of a brown frog (R. temporaria) and from that of two toad species (Bufo
bufo and B. calamita

Trevor Beebee

			    SEH congress

The SEH congress took place between 25 and 29 August at the University
of Savoie, near the city of Chambery (France). About 150 participants
presented their work in two poster sessions and nine oral sessions.
Four plenary lectures were scheduled, one each day before the morning
session. The originally-announced duration of four days was prolonged
to five days, mostly because each paper was allotted 30 min. At the end
of the congress, several people discussed the duration of
presentations. We shared the opinion that the optimal duration for
lectures is 20 min. A shorter duration would also have prevented large
gaps in the program caused by the absence of many Russian colleagues,
who were unable to attend the meeting because of the sudden changes in
the Russian monetary system.  Because of these absences, up to three
talks had to be cancelled per session.

During the congress, two workshops were held independently from the
congress. The workshop on the problem of fishes in alpine lakes excited
a lot of interest among the scientists, especially among the groups
interested in conservation. The result of this workshop is a
declaration that is supposed to be ready for ratification at the next
ordinary SEH meeting.

The attending scientists interested in research on water frog met at
the second workshop. Ten persons showed various interests in water
frogs, and several topics were discussed. The main problem in studies
of water frogs seems to be methodological. Different working groups use
different methods, which causes problems in comparing their results.
Some discussants suggested that, because they are commercially
prepared, cellulose acetate plates give more consistent and therefore
more comparable results, than starch gels. On the other hand, the
translation products of different alleles may behave differently on the
two media, which may raise problems for establishing an accepted
allelic nomenclature. Evidence of introgression that was presented
suggests that at least five rather than one to three diagnostic loci
should be considered in taxon identification. On another point, the
lack of contributions from users/readers was pointed out as the
important deficiency of WIP.

At the extraordinary meeting of the SEH, we discussed having the SEH
serving as roof organization for all other national herpetological
societies from Europe, including the possibility of combining different
journals to gain value in the competition with American herpetological
journals. Establishment of a Pan-European information network for
scientists interested in amphibians and reptiles was discussed. The
positive voting of all the scientists present supported this idea. The
network will be built up during the next year.

The next SEH meeting will be at Iraklion (Crete) during the last week
of August 1999 (not 2000).

Vransko, Mainz 3.9.1998 Nusa Vogrin and Dirk Schmeller

-Important information -

Amphibia-Reptilia is now indexed in Current Contents.

We will start a new column on the topics mentioned in the title. Any
recent literature/thoughts /ideas etc. that you want to share are
welcome. Send them directly to Maria Ogielska

If you write to us it would be helpful if you would use a
subject line like this "WIP: ......some useful text...." (Peter Beerli)

Peter Beerli (beerli@scs.fsu.edu)