Trying to stay ahead of a deadly disease that has wiped out more than 100 species, scientists at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute continue to discover new frog species in Panama: Pristimantis educatoris, from Omar Torrijos National Park, and P. adnus from Darien Province near the Colombian border.
In 1989 researchers realized that frogs were dying around the world. Then they identified the cause: a fungal disease called chytridiomycosis. In 2004 Karen Lips, associate professor at the University of Maryland, sounded the alarm that the disease was devastating highland frogs in Central Panama and spreading across the country to the east.
"We are working as hard as we can to find and identify frogs before the disease reaches them, and to learn about a disease that has the power to ravage an entire group of organisms," said Roberto Ibanez, research scientist at STRI and local director of the Panama Amphibian Rescue and Conservation Project.
Since 2005 research institutions and zoos from Panama and the United States have scrambled to collect healthy frogs east of the infected areato save them from extinction. The Panama Amphibian Rescue and Conservation Project unites eight institutions including STRI and the Smithsonian's National Zoological Park, along with Panama's environmental authority, ANAM, in a new effort to raise captive frogs in Panama at Summit Nature Park with support from the El Valle Amphibian Conservation Center.
While collecting at Omar Torrijos National Park, Lips' team noticed a common frog much bigger than specimens collected elsewhere. Mason Ryan and Tom Giermakowski, from the Museum of Southwestern Biology and the University of New Mexico, compared the frogs' feet and toes with frogs in museum collections, concluding that the bigger frogs were actually a new species.
They named this new species P. educatoris. The species name, educatoris, honors Jay M. Savage, emer
|Contact: Beth King|
Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute