Biologist Studies Peruvian Poison Frogs
By Erica Plouffe Lazure
A $227,000 grant from the
National Science Foundation will enable an East Carolina University
biologist to study the mating and parenting habits in species of
Peruvian poison frogs.
Kyle Summers plans to
study sexual conflict and parental care in three species of frogs,
building on his 20-year career in evolutionary biology.
,I study these frogs
because they allow me to answer questions that are of general interest
in evolutionary biology,Š Summers said.
,I am interested in how
ecological factors affect the strategies organisms use to survive and
reproduce.Š The three-year NSF grant was bolstered by funding from
ECU‰s Research Development Grant Program, which enabled Summers to
conduct preliminary research for this project last year. The seed
grants are offered each year to ECU faculty who request funding to
conduct research that would qualify them for larger grants.
|The Dendrobates variabilis, a type of poison frog, is the subject of research by ECU biologist Kyle Summers. (Contributed photo)
,The seed grant allowed us
to purchase molecular markers (DNA) that can be used to investigate the
genetic relationships of individuals in the field,Š Summers said.
,We take small tissue
samples from each individual adult, tadpole and clutch of eggs and
these are brought to the lab.Š Summers plans to conduct field research
on Dendrobates variabilis and its imitator with ECU students in the
Cainarachi Valley in northern Peru this summer to survey the behavior
and activities of the frogs, as well as conduct genetic analyses.
He will also consider how
ecological factors play a role in tadpole care and their growth and
survival rates. These species of frog are poisonous, but can be handled
without harm to humans.
,Our current research is
focused on investigating how ecological factors, such as the kind of
pool typically used, affect behavioral strategies associated with
reproduction, such as parental care, courtship, territoriality, home
range size and aggression,Š Summers said.
The results will enable Summers to compare how the environment affects mating, parenting and sexual habits, he said.
Summers will also collaborate with a biologist in southern Peru to conduct the same studies for geographic variation.