6 species of frogs discovered in Laos
Rhett A. Butler, mongabay.com
April 20, 2006
Six new species of frogs have been discovered in the Southeast Asia nation of Lao PDR, according to the Bronx Zoo-based Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS).
"Now that these species have been documented we can go back and start to learn something about their biology," said Bryan Stuart of the Field Museum, a co-author of the study. Scientists from the American Museum of Natural History and Russian Academy of Sciences were also involved in the new study.
Laos, the least densely populated country in Asia, has produced several wildlife discoveries in recent years, including the Laotian rock rat, described last year. WCS notes that nine amphibians have been discovered by Stuart and his collaborators since 2002, but that these are threatened by habitat destruction and the illegal wildlife trade.
Rana khalam. Photo by Nikolai Orlov
Rana compotrix frog. Photo by Nikolai Orlov
Rana heatwolei frog. Photo by Bryan Stuart.
Rana khalam frog. Photo by Nikolai Orlov
Huia absita frog. Photo by Bryan Stuart.
Paramesotriton laoensi salamander. Photo by Bryan Stuart.
Already one recently described species of salamander has turned up in the Japanese pet trade, where it is commanding a high premium for its rarity. In a statement, WCS says "This species is currently known only from two, nearby localities in northern Laos. Conservationists are eager to begin surveys of this species to document the extent of its range and habitat requirements, in order to get it protected by the Lao government before it becomes threatened by overexploitation."
The discoveries come as amphibian populations are in decline worldwide. A study released earlier this year suggests that climate change is directly responsible for worsening infections caused by a skin fungus. This infectious disease — a type of chytrid fungus (Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis)—is now found in frog populations around the world and is the main suspect in the rapid disappearance of amphibians.
Last year, the Global Amphibian Assessment, a survey of the planet's amphibian species, found that nearly a third (32%) of the world's 5743 known amphibian species are threatened and 129 species have gone extinct since 1980. Among the species to disappear is Costa Rica's Golden toad (Bufo periglenes) and the Gastric Brooding Frog (Rheobatrachus silus) of Queensland, Australia. Scientists believe there may be around 10,000 amphibian species on the planet, although this number is likely to be falling fast.
Despite declining habitat and wildlife populations in Asia, scientists continue to make new discoveries in the forests of the region, including 361 new species in Borneo over the past decade and 43 new species of vertebrates in Sri Lanka. Just last year, scientists with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) captured on film what may be a new species of mammal in the rainforests of Kalimantan in Indonesian Borneo. The fox-like creature is apparently unknown even to local hunters.
"Certainly much more remains to be found in Laos," said Stuart.
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This article used information from WCS.