National Geographic : 2016 Apr
EXPLORE Field Notes To learn more about the ways National Geographic is funding research and exploration, visit nationalgeographic.com/explorers. The frog on the left (R. imitator) has evolved to resemble the frog on the right (R. fan- tastica). The mimicry isn’t exact—just close enough to warn pred- ators away from both toxic species. Williams’s new memoir explores her journey through a revolutionary clinical trial. Available at nationalgeographic.com/books Two traits make Ranitomeya imitator “really neat,” says Kyle Summers, a biologist at East Carolina University and a National Geograph- ic grantee. “This is the only frog that’s known to be monog- amous.” And, he says, “it’s a mimic.” Summers studies the poisonous frog in the rain forests of Peru, where it has evolved to match the coloration of other toxic frogs. That way, predators have to recognize only one kind of frog as too dangerous to eat. Summers and his colleagues have found four types of the mimic poison frogs: spotted, striped, banded, and orange-headed. They “look quite different from each other,” he says, “but similar to the species they co-occur with.” Research also has confirmed that the frogs are monogamous, Summers says. Lifelong bonded pairs work together to feed their tad- poles in the tiny pools of water that collect on the leaves of tropical plants. To study the frogs, the scientists catch them in plastic cups. They weigh them, measure them, and take a small toe clip for genetic anal- ysis. Then they let the frogs go. “ We put a little bit of Neosporin on the toe,” says Summers, “to keep it from getting infected.” Is the poison an issue for researchers? “We handle the frogs with rubber gloves,” he says, “ but that’s mostly for the frogs.” As distasteful as the mimic poison frog may be to predators, it isn’t particularly toxic to humans. —Rachel Hartigan Shea Peru A loyal frog changes its stripes—and spots KYLE SUMMERS Biologist PERU SOUTH AMER. PHOTO: JASON L. BROWN. NGM MAPS United States Using music as an antidote to cancer MARY ELIZABETH WILLIAMS Author Williams reports: I met Jedd Wolchok at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center during the mela- noma clinical trial that saved my life. Although I’ve known him for four years, I’ve never seen him like this before: his white lab coat replaced by black-tie attire, his stetho- scope traded in for a tuba. My doctor, an award-winning oncologist, is in a high school auditorium in New York City’s Brooklyn borough today not to treat cancer but to make music. He’s part of the Brooklyn Wind Symphony, a volunteer group for dedicated— but not necessarily professional—musicians who practice and perform together. “The day job can be stressful and emotionally challenging,” Wolchok says. Making music with this group is “an opportunity to restore, prevents burnout and compassion fatigue, and enhances the ability to focus on creative solutions.” It’s beautiful to experience the kind of art that can guide innovation—and the kind of innovation that can save lives, like mine. U.S. N. AMER. New York monocropping didn’t seem to materialize. However, this crop variety did seem to open vulnerabilities elsewhere. GM cotton is still susceptible to some pests. They can be man- aged by spraying—which has consequences for food crops nearby.