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On Gulf Coast Toads and the Changing of the Geni September 23, 2019

Posted by intellectualgridiron in Science.
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A Gulf Coast Toad hangs out on a rock in Fort Worth (photo by author).  Commonly found in a large part of Texas, it is emblematic of major taxonomical changes in the iconic toad family of Bufonidae.

On my bookshelf is a copy of the venerable Aububon Society Field Guide to North American Reptiles & Amphibians (11th Printing, 1992).  I have had this copy since I was in junior high.  That was slightly more than a quarter-century ago.  Upon recently thumbing through the toad section, I found the photo entry for the Gulf Coast Toad.

My interest in this species was piqued because several weeks ago, I found the first one along my home here in the DFW Metroplex.  Last summer was the first time I had found (and photographed) one in the [sort-of] wild, having found one at the Fort Worth Botanical Gardens.  Naturally, I consider these “firsts” all kinds of cool, since this is a totally different species from the toads I grew up finding in southern Indiana.  There, the options were Fowler’s Toads and American Toads, mostly the former.  It’s a sign of finding different fauna in a different part of the country, which is something I find rather exhilarating.

Back to the Gulf Coast Toad entry in the Audubon Society Field Guide (entry 246):  on the explanatory pages (397-398), the species is listed as Bufo valliceps.  At this same time, the Fowler’s Toad was listed as B. fowleri, and the American Toad was B. americanus.  Indeed, the very genus of Bufo has been synonymous with toads themselves.

Not anymore.  The Bufo genus over the years had become a very cosmopolitan genus for toads.  Apparently, to a critical mass of taxonomists, the genus had become a little too cosmopolitan, and some species formerly within said genus have been spun off into their own geni.  For example, the Fowler’s and American Toads are now Anaxyrus fowleri and Anaxyrus americanus, respectively.  The Gulf Coast Toad now belongs to genus Incilius instead of Anaxyrus.  Since the species listed in the old Audubon field guide was B. valliceps, it would now logically be Incilius valliceps.

Except that it is not.  As it turns out, there are two types of Gulf Coast Toad:  to be more precise, two species that represent two different geographical populations.  I. valliceps, the ostensible representative of the Texas and Louisiana population (the northern population), is actually the species for the Mesoamerican population (that is, the southern population).  The Gulf Coast Toads found here in Texas are actually I. nebulifer.

All of this is a fairly recent development.  The northern population of Gulf Coast Toads went from Bufo valliceps to Incilius nebulifer in just 15 years.  Yes, many other toads found in North and Central America have also been reclassified into either Anaxyrus or Incilius.

Not to fret, though, Bufo fans:  the genus is still alive and well, and still represents 150 species within family Bufonidae.  The geni Anaxyrus and Incilius still belong to family Bufonidae as well.  Bufo also remains the genus for the largest known species of toad, the Marine Toad, a.k.a., the Cane Toad (B. marinus), which has become an invasive species in Florida (also found in extreme south Texas:  think McAllen and Brownsville).

In any case, it remains amazing to see how a species commonly found in much of Texas has had such a journey through taxonomical placement.  But the implications of these recent developments are potentially profound, for they serve as a reminder to all of us how nothing is static, and how little of science is actually “settled” science.

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College Football Awards, Week 4 (2019) September 23, 2019

Posted by intellectualgridiron in Sports.
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COACHES
Wish I were him: Kirby Smart, Georgia

Glad I’m not him: Jeremy Pruitt, Tennessee

Lucky guy: Willie Taggert, Florida State

Poor guy: Scott Satterfield, Louisville

Desperately seeking a wake-up call: Mack Brown, North Carolina

Desperately seeking a P.R. man: Willie Fritz, Tulane

Desperately seeking sunglasses and a fake beard: Jim Harbaugh, Michigan

Desperately seeking … anything:  Dana Holgorsen, Houston

TEAMS
Thought you’d kick butt, you did: Ohio State (defeated Miami, Ohio 76-5)

Thought you’d kick butt, you didn’t: Georgia (defeated Notre Dame 23-17)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you did: Charlotte (lost to Clemson 52-10)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you didn’t:  SMU (defeated TCU 41-38)

Thought you wouldn’t kick butt, you did:  Kent State (defeated Bowling Green 62-20)

Dang, they’re good: Ohio State

Dang, they’re bad:  Arkansas

Can’t Stand Prosperity:  TCU

Did the season start?  Stanford

Can the season end?  Tennessee

Can the season never endIowa State

GAMES
Play this again:  No. 3 Georgia 23, No. 7 Notre Dame 17

Play this again, too:  No. 12 Texas 36, Oklahoma State 30

Never play this again: No. 6 Ohio State 76, Miami, Ohio 5

That will leave a mark:  Iowa State 72, Louisiana-Monroe 20

What? Appalachian State 34, North Carolina 31

HuhSan Jose State 31, Arkansas 24

Double HuhUSC 30, No. 10 Utah 23

Are you kidding me??  SMU 41, No. 25 TCU 38

Oh – my – GodNo. 13 Wisconsin 35, No. 11 Michigan 14

NEXT WEEK

(rankings are current AP (post-week 4, pre-week 5)
Possible best game of the week:  No. 18 Virginia @ No. 10 Notre Dame

 (Possible second choice):  Nebraska @ No. 6 Ohio State

Best non-Power Five vs. Power Five  matchup: Northern Illinois @ Vanderbilt

Best non-Power Five matchup: Navy @ Memphis

Upset alert: Maryland @ No. 13 Penn State

Must win: UCLA @ Arizona

Offensive explosion: Washington State @ No. 19 Utah

Defensive struggle: (inconclusive)

Great game no one is talking about: Kansas State @ Oklahoma State (also:  Iowa State @ Baylor)

Intriguing coaching matchup:  Les Miles of Kansas vs. Gary Patterson of TCU

Who’s bringing the body bags? Towson @ No. 9 Florida

Why are they playing? Delaware @ Pitt

Plenty of good seats remaining: Akron @ UMass

They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?  Middle Tennessee @ No. 18 Iowa

Week 4 Thoughts:

Week 4 has been arguably the best week for college football thus far in the 2019 season.  Friday started off the weekend with a bang with an engaging matchup between USC and Utah.  The following first time slot of Saturday (noon EDT) was great, at least on paper.  Michigan faced Wisconsin in Camp Randall Stadium, and left the game exposed for having severe weaknesses on offense that must be addressed or Jim Harbaugh’s future with his alma mater may be in doubt.

That said, two key games in the following time slot (Louisville at Florida State and Auburn at Texas A&M) lived up to their billing.  Louisville is clearly headed in the right direction as a program, but much improvement remains.  Perhaps it is unreasonable for Scott Satterfield to turn things around so quickly, given the mess that Bobby Petrino left in his wake.  Meanwhile, the Aggies fought the good fight at home, but came up short against a gradually but steadily ascendant Auburn.  Both were good game, regardless.

The evening time slot proved that the best was yet to come that day.  Oklahoma State came calling at Texas, for one.  The Longhorns had failed to beat the Cowboys the previous five seasons, so the urgency was clearly there to get that proverbial monkey off the Horns’ collective back.

Then, a half-hour later, the “ticket to die for” lived up to its billing as Notre Dame put up a strong fight against Georgia in Sanford Stadium.  The game was a close defensive struggle for three and a half quarters before the Bulldogs finally asserted themselves in accordance with their full potential.  In other words, in the latter half of the fourth quarter, the cream finally rose to the top.

With so much great football having been played on Sept. 21 from noon through 11 PM Eastern, such will be a very tough act for Week 5 to follow.  Case in point:  no game for Week 5 offers a “ticket to die for”, which is more the pity.