Mizzou Biologist Receives Grant from the National Geographic Society

Johana Goyes Vallejos

Johana Goyes Vallejos, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Missouri, has been awarded a grant from the National Geographic Society to study the mating behavior of the smooth guardian frog in Borneo as a 2021 National Geographic Explorer.

The smooth guardian frog (also called Limnonectes palavanensis) is a tiny and unassuming amphibian that lives hidden amongst the leaf litter and detritus of the forest floor on the island of Borneo. The amphibian is known chiefly for its paternal care -- the males exclusively guard egg clutches and transport the tadpoles to suitable ponds -- a relatively rare trait in frogs. Rarer still is female calling, another reproductive behavior exhibited by this frog and the main focus of Goyes Vallejos’ study.

Smooth guardian frog (Limnonectes palavanensis)

During mating season, males call from below leaves to attract females to a suitable egg-laying spot on the forest floor. Groups of two-to-three females will form a small chorus around a single male, calling spontaneously until a single female lays a clutch of eggs to be fertilized by the male.

As a 2021 National Geographic Explorer, Goyes Vallejos will be heading to the Ulu Temburong forest in Borneo to record the unusual mating calls of females as well as describe the entire courtship and mating behavior of this elusive forest dweller. 

Goyes Vallejos has been studying and documenting the ecology, natural history, and evolution of L. palavanensis for nearly a decade, first as a Ph.D. at the University of Connecticut and then as a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Kansas. She is currently a Preparing Future Faculty Postdoctoral Fellow in the Division of Biological Sciences at the University of Missouri, where she is continuing her studies on the behavioral and ecological factors that drive the evolution of parental care patterns in this species specifically and amphibians in general.

The Preparing Future Faculty Postdoctoral Program is designed to promote and develop scholars for tenure-track faculty positions at the University of Missouri or elsewhere, in any discipline.

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