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New Frog Species Die Almost as Fast as Discovered

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by underthesea

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In The News

New Panama frog species are dropping dead almost as quickly as they pop up—with 11 new species identified, five newly-discovered frogs have become regionally extinct due to a deadly fungal disease that sweeps the region. One of the disappeared frog species is thought to be extinct the world over.

Before the disease sweeps through the entire region, scientists are discovering new frog species which may not be around for long--some frogs are going extinct while some survive.

Panama’s Omar Torrijos National Park has been the source for scientists’ discovery of 11 new frog species—follwing a 2004 fungus epidemic, five of the frog species went locally extinct, and one frog species is specifically known to have no other known habitat in the world.

Evolutionary geneticist Andrew Crawford says that one-third of amphibian species around the world are endangered animals and listed on the IUCN Red List.

Biologist Karen Lips, a co-author of a long-term regional study, set up frog monitoring in Omar Torrijos National Park over a decade ago in 1998. Lips became aware that the deadly fungus which had first been noted in Costa Rica was spreading quickly toward the Panama region.

“She [Lips] walked the same transects year after year, and one day in October 2004 she started finding dead frogs instead of live ones,” Crawford said. “The strangest thing was that frogs that were previously rare, like subterranean frogs, became more abundant. They started coming out of the woodwork, so to speak, and then they died.”

The long-term frog study by Lips and Crawford identified a total of 74 species in the Panama region. In only months of the fungus’ arrival, Crawford says that 30 of the frog species disappeared from the Panama region, including five frog species only recently discovered.

Presence of killer fungus Batrochochytrium dendrobatidis was solidified when the golden toad and roughly half of the overall frog species disappeared in Monteverde reserve in Costa Rica in 1987. The fungus has since spread through the Central America highlands and also through a large portion of the Andes.
Frogs that live in streams in mountainous areas are most vulnerable to the heat-hating fungus--a fungus suspected of originating in Africa or North America.

One of the frog species that went extinct in Omar Torrijos National Park has no other known habitat—the frog now likely to be extinct worldwide. The other 29 frog species have known ranges in eastern Panama, an area not yet hit by the deadly fungus.

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