Friday, July 01, 2005

ENV: Losing Frogs Faster Than . . .

. . . we can find and name them . . . plus snails, crabs, lizards and deer . . .

35 New Sri Lanka Frogs Discovered
By SHIMALI SENANAYAKEThe Associated PressFriday, July 1, 2005; 1:54 PM


COLOMBO, Sri Lanka -- Researchers confirmed the discovery of 35 new frog species in Sri Lanka's dwindling rain forest over the past decade, but also found that 17 frog species have disappeared and 11 others face imminent extinction unless their habitat is protected.

A concerted effort from the government and international agencies is needed to preserve the frogs' rain forest home, warned researcher Rohan Pethiyagoda, "or it's not going to be only the frogs that will be in trouble."

Pethiyagod and his team also found 50 previously unknown species of snails, 17 new crabs, seven new lizards, and a mysterious new species of mouse deer, according to their study published Thursday in the peer-reviewed Raffles Bulletin of Zoology.

Pethiyagod and his team scoured Sri Lanka's forests, comparing what they found with Sri Lankan wildlife collected earlier and preserved in museums in London, Paris and Berlin. They found that 17 frog species previously found no longer existed in the wild.

"Sri Lanka's frogs are in deep trouble ... It's a desperate situation," Pethiyagoda said in a telephone interview with the Associated Press, adding that captive breeding may be necessary to save 11 species on the brink of extinction.

The 35 new frog species boosts Sri Lanka's frog diversity to 105, including the 17 now extinct, and an additional 35 are in the process of being classified, Pethiyagoda said. Sri Lanka is home to 3 percent of the world's frogs, he added.

The study raises Sri Lanka's profile as an amphibian biodiversity treasure trove, even challenging tropical islands ten times larger like Madagascar and New Guinea, which have similar numbers of frog species.

In the study, Pethiyagoda wrote that less than 5 percent of Sri Lanka's rain forest has survived the massive expansion of agriculture of the past two centuries.

Many of the forests were cleared during the British colonial rule from 1815-1948 to make way for rubber, coffee, and tea plantations.

Three of the newly discovered tree frog species lay very sticky bright green eggs on similar colored leaves that develop into young frogs _ skipping the tadpole stage _ and emerge as smaller versions of their parents.

Although the pace of biodiversity research has accelerated, Pethiyagoda said, biodiversity managers and scientists need more engagement with the government and the public. "Only then can an effective strategy be developed for securing the integrity of biodiversity as a whole, and preventing further extinction," he said.

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