A tropical frog the only one of its kind in the world is providing conservationists with exclusive insights into the genetic make-up of its closest endangered relatives.
University of Manchester scientists have allowed two critically endangered species of Central American Leaf frogs to interbreed, producing the unique frog a hybrid of the two species. DNA tests using a harmless mouth swab showed that the two parent frogs were actually very closely related despite being different species.
The findings are important because DNA tests on frogs of the same species but from different geographical areas have revealed considerable genetic differences. The scientists therefore suggest that conservation efforts should not only focus on each endangered species of frog but also on different populations of the same frog species.
"Almost a third of the world's amphibians are threatened with extinction, so it is imperative that we identify distinct populations of critically endangered species before they are lost forever," said Andrew Gray, Curator of Herpetology at the University's Manchester Museum.
"Through allowing interbreeding, and using DNA samples taken from the frogs' mouth, this work investigates the amount of variation both between and within species. More importantly, it is helping determine where conservation efforts should be concentrated and highlighting that some populations of critically endangered amphibians are in desperate need of further protection."
In the past, an animal's appearance, including its colouration, defined it. But phylogenetics the study of evolutionary relatedness of species through genetics is becoming increasingly important in helping biologists identify separate species in need of conservation.
The unique Leaf frog, which is maintained at the Manchester Museum, was bred from the two species Agalychnis annae, from Costa Rica and Panama, and Agalychnis moreletii,
|Contact: Aeron Haworth|
University of Manchester