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Nature, Wildlife

African Red Toad

The African red toad or African split-skin toad (Schismaderma carens) is a species of toad in the Bufonidae family.

DSCF0718It is found in Angola, Botswana, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and possibly Lesotho.

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Its natural habitats are dry savanna, moist savanna, subtropical or tropical dry shrubland, subtropical or tropical moist shrubland, subtropical or tropical dry lowland grassland, freshwater marshes, intermittent freshwater marshes, arable land, pastureland, urban areas, water storage areas, ponds, canals and ditches, and man-made karsts.

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The African red toad is a fairly large species with adults reaching about 90 millimetres (3.5 in) in snout-to-vent length, females being slightly larger than males. The upper surface is reddish-brown with a pair of dark brown spots on the shoulders and another pair on the lower back. There is a dorso-lateral ridge with glands running from the tympanum to the back leg, and the outer part of this ridge is darker on its lower edge. The flanks in some individuals are dark and in others pale.

DSCF0724Male African red toads call from the surface of deep still water in mid-summer. Double strings of eggs are laid in the water and may be tangled in submerged vegetation. The tadpoles are gregarious and may form dense swarms. The time between egg-laying and metamorphosis of the tadpoles into juveniles is 37 to 52 days.

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The skin of the Red Toad is leathery and lacks the elevated glands usually found in toads (family Bufonidae). The eardrum is characteristically large and conspicuous in this species.

DSCF0734It is generally common, but it is hard to find when it is not breeding.

DSCF0736It is an adaptable species that is unlikely to be facing any significant threats.

DSCF0738The species in this family have warty skin, plump bodies, short legs, and parotid glands on the side of their heads. The parotid glands secrete a poison that can repel, or even kill predators.

DSCF0739True toads have no teeth or breastbone. Some people think that if you touch a toad you will get warts. That is not true.

DSCF0740Most species in the Bufonidae family are dull in color and live on the land.

DSCF0744There are over 500 species in this family and they are found all over the world, except for in Australia and its surrounding islands.

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Insects, Nature

Bark Mantis Nymph

The Bark and Ground mantises (genus Tarachodes) are praying mantises of the family Tarachodidae that are native to the Afrotropics.

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Youngest son found this cutie in his room and before he put him safely on a tree in our garden, I took a few shots of it on his hand.

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Bark mantis is a common name given to various species of praying mantis, especially those with cryptic camouflage resembling tree bark.

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It was such a friendly little cutie, and I couldn’t stop taking photos of it. :D

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Handré Basson at S.A. Butterflies, Bugs, Bees and other small things on Facebook confirmed the species and that it’s a nymph.

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As in related insect groups, mantises go through three stages of metamorphosis: egg, nymph, and adult (mantises are among the hemimetabolic insects). The nymph and adult insect are structurally quite similar, except that the nymph is smaller and has no wings or functional genitalia. The nymphs are also sometimes colored differently from the adult, and the early stages are often mimics of ants.

A mantis nymph increases in size (often changing its diet as it does so) by replacing its outer body covering with a sturdy, flexible exoskeleton and molting when needed. Molting can happen from five to ten times, depending on the species. After the final molt most species have wings, though some species are wingless or brachypterous (“short-winged”), particularly in the female sex.

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Most mantises are exclusively predatory while exceptions occur. Insects are their primary prey, but the diet of a mantis changes as it grows larger. In its first instar a mantis eats small insects such as tiny flies or its own siblings. In later instars it does not or cannot profitably pursue such small prey.

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Mantises are camouflaged, and most species make use of protective coloration to blend in with the foliage or substrate, both to avoid predators, and to better snare their prey. Various species have evolved to not only blend with the foliage, but to mimic it, appearing as either living or withered leaves, sticks, tree bark, blades of grass, flowers, or even stones.

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Mantises have two grasping, spiked forelegs in which prey items are caught and held securely. Mantises may have a visual range of up to 20 metres. The dark spot on each eye is a pseudopupil. As their hunting relies heavily on vision, mantises are primarily diurnal.

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In the final instar as a rule the diet still includes more insects than anything else, but large species have been known to prey on small scorpions, lizards, frogs, birds, snakes, fish, and even rodents; they feed on any species small enough for them to capture, but large enough to engage their attention.

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The majority of mantises are ambush predators that only feed upon live prey a short distance within their reach, but some ground and bark species actively pursue their prey. Species that are predominantly ambush predators camouflage themselves and spend long periods standing perfectly still. They largely wait for their prey to stray within reach, but most mantises chase tempting prey if it strays closely enough.

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A mantis catches prey items and grips them with grasping, spiked forelegs. The mantis usually holds its prey with one arm between the head and thorax, and the other on the abdomen. Then, if the prey does not resist, the mantis eats it alive. However, if the prey does resist, the mantis often eats it head first, some species of mantises being more prone to the behaviour than others.

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While mantises can bite, they have no venom. They can also slash captors with their raptorial legs (which is often preceded by a threat display wherein the mantis rears back and spreads its front legs and wings (if present), often revealing vivid colors and/or eyespots to startle a predator).

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Mantises are without chemical protection; many large insectivores eat mantises, including scops owls, shrikes, bullfrogs, chameleons, and milk snakes.

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Nature, Spiders

Cute and adorable …

That is how I see these little Jumping Spiders.  They are really cute and adorable.  When I find one, I am totally thrilled and even get upset when it’s too scared of me and I can’t take photos of it.  Then I blame all those people who kill them. :P

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I feel especially lucky when I find one that just caught a fly.  It’s another Thyene natalii.

(Thyene is a spider genus of the Salticidae family of Jumping Spiders)

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A quick peek …

and a few shots from different angles – and quietly so I don’t disturb this cutie while it’s eating.

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Jumping Spiders have very good eyesight and this cutie noticed me and tried to hide behind the leaf.
I slowly turned the leaf upside down …

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Look at those adorable eyelashes. :D

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Luckily it was more interested in its meal and less in me and I could take a few shots, before it took its meal and disappeared.

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I am very grateful that these little beauties are around to catch those pesky flies! :D

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This little cutie is also part of the Thyene sp. and I found it on the Frangipani tree, looking for food.

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I just wish I could speak Spider language – just to ask them to sit still so I can get a few good shots. :P

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This was the best close-up I could get of this beautie.  If you want to see awesome macro shots of these cuties, you have to visit Vida van der Walt’s website.  She takes the most amazing shots of them and there are ones there that are more adorable than these.  I always go there when I want to identify the Salti’s I find in the garden and dream about that one day when I might be able to take such great shots of these little darlings. :D

Jumping Spiders of South Africa

 

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Pets

Back to blogging and a New Addition …

We painted the walls and ceilings in the home, and it kept me quite busy.  It’s like moving again, but in-house. We finally finished on Thursday. :D

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Simba is first in line when hubby makes fire in the fireplace at night.

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Warm and cozy …

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Our little man became 16 in December but is still going strong.  He is a bit slower, half blind and deaf and the little legs a bit stiff, but the MobiFlex helps a lot.

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His other bed in the pc room – next to the heater or like now, on my lap. :D

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Our newest addition to the family. :D

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His name is Russel and he is a 4 year old Jack Russell.   This blue ball is his favourite toy. :D

He is a very active and playful little guy and reminds me a lot of Simba at that age. :D

His mom is in and out of the hospital and couldn’t take care of him anymore, and asked a friend of ours for a good home for him.  We then decided to take him in. :D

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He won’t stop playing and is keeping Cj and Rudi quite busy. :D

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His toy ball landed near Simba and of course the old man growled at him.  :P

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Simba won’t bite him and it is just his way to show who is the ‘boss’ here. :D

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Russel wouldn’t go near the ball while it’s so close to Simba, and he kept looking at me to ‘rescue’ his toy. LOL!

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Happy chappy again when he got the ball back. :D

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We want to thank Russel’s mom for entrusting him in our care.  She took such great care of him and he was so loved.  Here with us it will be the same. :D

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