Friday, March 18, 2011

My Noisy Neighbors

My neighbors are up to their loud antics again; a really wild singles party. Fact of the matter is, I checked very carefully one evening before we bght the place to make sure the sound levels were what I was looking for.

Luckily, I'm not talking about a frat house or a heavy metal bar. A neighboring property has a vernal pool (a body of water which dries out in early summer, and hence cannot support fish) and the spring peepers (aka chorus frogs) tuned up for the first time of the season. Along with visiting a sugar house to see (and smell!) maple sugar being made, it's my favorite part of spring in New England.

Last year saw the first publication of a frog genome sequence. Unfortunately, while it made great scientific sense to target Xenopus, since it is a model system, you need to be quite a ranophile to adore one. They are just plumb ugly! I've never heard one speak, but I'm not having high hopes in that department either. On the other hand, in my neighborhood alone we have the beautiful masked wood frog, pickerel frogs and green frogs -- and toads which are appreciated for the devouring of garden pests. I found a female bullfrog in front of our house just after we purchased it. The peepers are virtually impossible to ever see, and in a similar way in the summer Eastern grey treefrogs are heard but not spotted.

But that's being a bit parochial. There are, of course, wonderful frogs around the world, from poison dart frogs to tomato frogs via Goliath frogs.  Many have very interesting features which genomes might shed light on.  I expect the 10K vertebrate genomes project will tackle a lot of frogs, though one of the most interesting is believed extinct -- the Australian gastric brooding frog. With luck, perhaps some of these traits can be decoded -- I particularly hope we can get some insight into the genetic circuits that create the neural circuits that yield each species' distinctive call.

1 comment:

Kristen A said...

I love spring peepers! I grew up on the Cape and would often spend time at my grandmother's house which is on a pond. The frogs made such a beautiful sound in the early evening.