New Black Frog Species Discovered

07/14/2009

New-frog-costa-rica

Scientists recently discovered this never-before-seen species of tink frog in Costa Rica/
Credit Adrián García

A team of scientists went on a midnight hike. Does this sound like the beginning of a good joke? It’s not, but it is an interesting story. So the scientists and guides were wandering around the Cordillera de Talamanca Mountains of Costa Rica near the border with Panama in the dark, doing transects to find various frogs, when they heard a lot of unique frog calls going on. Dink! Tink! They shone their flashlight inside a bromeliad, a tropical flowering relative of the pineapple that tends to fill up with water after a rain, and inside was a tiny black female frog.

Herpetologist Gerardo Chaves and colleage Adrián García, both who work at the Zoology Museum at the University of Costa Rica, had never seen a frog like that before, and they realized they’d likely discovered a brand new species – a very cool feat for any scientist! They collected the frog and set out to find more individuals. Just two centimeters long, the frog is a member of the tink frog group, most of which have a clear bell-like call. The scientists brought some tissue samples back to geneticists Alejandro Leal and Alejandro Mora at the University of Costa Rica who confirmed these frogs were indeed a previously unknown species.

The scientists named the new species Diasporus ventrimaculatus, which refers to the spotted belly of both male and female of the new species. They published their findings in the scientific journal Zootaxa. On a funny little side note, the journal editors needed convincing that the male and female indeed belonged to the same species because they look so different. The females are all black, while the males are mottled orange, red and grey-black. Chaves found this particularly unusual since the frogs come out at night. Why should male and female have distinct coloration if they find one another by call? Another question for further study.

All of these new tink frogs they found in a valley known as Valle de Silencio, and the biologists believe this frog is endemic there, possibly found nowhere else in the world. The valley lies 12 hours walk from the nearest town, and remains extremely remote and unexplored compared to many other locales in Costa Rica. The frog's habitat is unusual because the valley lies above 8,200 feet elevation, which is high – and cool – for a tink frog, or any frog for that matter. Most tink frogs live below 1,600 feet with the highest elevation otherwise known for a tink frog being 6,600 feet. These frogs are also interesting because they do not have a tadpole stage but develop straight from the egg into a tiny frog.

Tropical Costa Rica has a rich herpetofauna, with around 186 amphibian species. And although scientists have identified over 6,000 amphibians around the world, many are in dire straits, suffering from declines from chitrid fungus, pesticides, habitat loss, and other threats. A full third of amphibian species are threatened, endangered or extinct according to the IUCN Red List. Alex Leff did a great story about the new frog discovery for the Global Post that includes several additional photos.

Watch as Jeff Corwin uncovers yet another new species of frog in the forests of Ecuador!


Follow fascinating, funny, tragic or otherwise compelling and timely stories about animals, as chosen by our editors and writers, including Daily Treat blogger, Janet McCulley.
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