Brian Kubicki, Costa Rican Amphibian Research Center
Hyalinobatrachium dianae is a new species of glass frog.
Stuart V. Nielsen
The cocoa frog is one of six new frog species that were recently found in a rainforest-dominated mountainous region of southeastern Suriname. “At a time when so many frog species are declining and undergoing extinctions worldwide, it is particularly uplifting to discover so many new frogs in a single area,” Trond Larsen, a tropical ecologist and director of the Rapid Assessment Program at Conservation International, told Discovery News. He and his team found about 60 new species in the South American country.
The tiny Lilliputian beetle measures just 2.3 mm long and could be the smallest dung beetle in the entire Guiana Shield and among the smallest in the world. “Dung beetles act as a cleanup crew in the forest,” Larsen said. “By burying dung, they not only control parasites and disease, including those that affect people, but also disperse seeds and recycle nutrients that enable forest regeneration.”
Leeanne Alonso, director of Global Biodiversity Exploration for Global Wildlife Conservation, went on the expedition with Larsen. She thinks this beetle might be small and red to look like a seed stuck in poo, thereby fooling predators. “Dung beetles in forest areas are a good indicator of mammal diversity,” she added. Without mammals providing their food source, there would be few such insects.
Stuart V. Nielsen
The collection of new animals includes 11 species of fish that are probably new to science. “Small, brightly-colored tetras similar to this one are popular in the aquarium trade, and sustainable exports of wild species could provide financial support to local communities and incentives to conserve the species’ natural habitat,” Larsen said.
Alonso added that, as new species go, fish are relatively rare. “It’s amazing that so many were found in this region, which I believe has the world’s best and most beautiful and pristine forests in the world.” She loved it so much that she took her family there on a vacation after the research work ended.
Bats are another “good indicator of habitat quality,” Alonso said. She explained that, in this case, the bat thrives on fruit, so the region must support plenty of healthy fruit-producing trees.
Genuine coral snakes are highly venomous, but this false coral snake’s name is itself somewhat misleading, as the researchers found out the hard way. Alonso said that a helicopter pilot transporting the scientists was bitten by one. “His arm really swelled up,” she said, explaining that all such snakes have sharp teeth and venom, just not as poisonous as the “real” coral snake this species resembles.
This extraordinary new insect displays waxy fronds at the end of its body that was built for jumping among plants. “Maybe the fronds are meant to resemble anthers of a flower, helping with camouflage?” Alonso said, admitting that nature sometimes works in still-mysterious ways. She continued, “So little is known about insects from this region, so this was a real find.”
Top-level predatory big cats, such as this margay, are yet another sign of healthy habitat. More of them generally means there are more prey animals to feast upon. “Margays love to sleep and hide in caves at the site,” Alonso added.
Six new katydids, including this one, were discovered. Larsen described it as a “gangly species with oversized, spiny hind legs.” The newly discovered katydids "are indicative of the pristine, healthy forests of the Upper Palumeu Watershed," Larsen said, "and the forests in turn help to ensure continued flows of clean, plentiful water used by people throughout the rest of the country.”
“Despite their generally diminutive size, water beetles can be useful indicators of water quality, and also help to filter and keep water clean,” Larsen said. “Many of the 26 new water beetle species discovered on this survey are probably restricted to isolated habitats, especially in the mountains of southeastern Suriname, and may occur nowhere else.”
Sandra J. Raredon
Eleven new fish species were found in the region, dubbed a "tropical Eden" by the researchers. Larsen said, “This new sucker-mouthed armored catfish was rare, and only encountered in the narrow, upper reaches of the Palumeu River.
“This delicate slender opossum is really cute,” Alonso said. “It’s hard to find small mammals like this, which are indicative of primary forest.”
is the largest of all South American dung beetles, Larsen shares. Despite its name, this species feeds more frequently on dead animals than on dung. A highly unusual case in the Animal Kingdom, both males and females of this species possess a long horn on their head, which they use during intense battles with other individuals of the same sex. The vast difference in adult body size seen here is primarily determined by how much food was available to the developing larva. This species is capable of rapidly burying large animal carcasses, providing an important ecological service that sustains rain forest health.
“Given the beautiful coloration, high visibility and popularity of frogs in the poison dart frog family (Dendrobatidae), most species in this group are relatively well known,” Larsen said. “Therefore, the discovery of this species potentially new to science is particularly exciting. The toxic secretions of poison dart frogs hold great potential to yield new medicines that could greatly benefit the world -- yet with frogs declining globally, their protection in the wild is essential.”
The researchers could have just scratched the new species surface in southeastern Suriname, given that other animals, fish, insects and more unknown to science could be found there. The region’s human population is currently small -- only about 500,000 -- but it’s growing and there is a threat of future habitat-destroying activities, such as mining and logging. Alonso hopes that the wilderness can be protected, with money-generating activities such as ecotourism allowing both humans and amimals to thrive there.
Already dubbed a real-life Kermit, a new species of frog has been identified in the rainforests of Costa Rica.
The inch-long creature, scientifically named Hyalinobatrachium dianae, joins Costa Rica's 13 other glass frogs, named for their translucent bodies through which you can view their organs. (Not all glass frogs, however, sport such translucent undersides.) Despite its bright-green skin and bulging white eyes, H. dianae had evaded biologists until a few specimens were collected by scientists with the Costa Rican Amphibian Research Center.
One of the characteristics that sets the new species apart from other glass frogs is the advertisement call males use to attract females. The researchers recorded this frog call in the field and found that it consists of "a single tonal long metallic whistle-like note," according to a description of the new species published earlier this year in the journal Zootaxa.
Study leader Brian Kubicki told CBS News that this frog "sounds more like an insect than most other frogs," which might be why it went unnoticed for so long. [Glass Frogs and More: See Amazing Photos of Frogs]
DNA tests also proved the frog species was separate from its closest cousin, Hyalinobatrachium chirripoi, the researchers wrote.
The scientists picked the species name dianae as an ode to Janet Diana Kubicki, the mother of study leader Kubicki, and as an allusion to Diana, the mountain-loving Roman goddess of the hunt and wild animals.
Only six specimens were collected from sites in Costa Rica's Caribbean foothills, at elevations between 1,300 and 2,950 feet (400 and 900 meters) above sea level. Kubicki and his colleagues wrote that the frog's habitat lies mostly in protected conservation areas with few roads, so it's unlikely that human development will pose a major threat to the species in the future. But frogs around the world have been hit by climate change and infectious disease, and it's unclear how these threats could affect H. dianae, the authors wrote.
H. dianae has made headlines for its resemblance to Kermit the Frog, which Kubicki doesn't mind.
"Prior to the media making the link between Hyalinobatrachium dianae and Kermit the frog I had no thought about the resemblance, but I can see where they came up with this idea that has created such a sensation with this newly described species," Kubicki told Live Science. "I am glad that this species has ended up getting so much international attention, and in doing so it is highlighting the amazing amphibians that are native to Costa Rica and the need to continue exploring and studying the country's amazing tropical forests."
Original article on Live Science.
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