Sunday, June 12, 2011

Hoppity hop hop - hop tests!

So I ran into a slight dilemma when I got to Panama. Actually, we (my committee and I) knew this would be a dilemma, but I couldn't do anything about it until I got here. You see, the problem with comparing exploration and learn between two species is that, well, they're two different species! Nothing is really the same for either the Cane toads or the Leaf litter toads; they're different sizes, they eat different things, they live in different habitats... and they move at different rates. So naturally, the testing arena for the smaller leaf litter toads should be smaller than the testing arena for the cane toads. Right? Most people would agree with me, but then the question arises; how much smaller?

At first, I scaled the leaf litter toad arena down by body size. Leaf litter toads are about 1/3 of the size of cane toads (on average), so the arena should be 1/3 the size. Makes sense, right? Well, this is what that would actually mean:

Seems a little...... little. I mean really, 32 inches across? That's less that 3 feet! The leaf litter toads are small, but they aren't that small. So the only thing to do was come down here, catch a few, and see how fast they move. Enter: the idea of the hop test!

To scale the arena accurately, we have to look not just at body size, but at overall range of mobility (i.e. how far can the toads move in a single hop or jump?). To do this, I'll take 5 toads of each species, put them in an empty arena for 10 minutes, and measure their hop and jump length. Sounds tricky, right? Well, it would be, except that we have an A-maze-ing program called Ethovision, which will follow the toads and take all sorts of measurements for us! So far, I've measured 3 cane toads and 2 leaf litter toads so far, and I've got a few more to do before I can make any conclusions. 

Given that the leaf litter toads are 1/3 of the size of the cane toads, what would you predict their range of movement to look like? Would you predict that they would move more or less than the cane toads? Which toad species do you think can hop the farthest? Jump the farthest?

Check back to see if your predictions are right! :)

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