This Thing Called Courage

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

200 New Species of Frogs Discovered on Madagascar

(And speaking of frogs...one would never mistake Main Street (where I live) as a rural area-- and yet there are four acres of woods behind the house, the result of landlocked streets in the area. At the bottom of a gully there are some nice boggy-wetland areas, and for the first time since I've been here--almost ten years-- the almost holy sound of spring peepers singing is sounding from this area. One can hear it clearly as you get out of the car. Where did they come from? Were they never here before? Did they cross Main Street to find this oasis? Intriguing questions to ponder, while sitting on the back steps in the pitch dartk, and listening to the music of the night...)
PORT LOUIS - Scientists have found more than 200 new species of frogs in Madagascar but a political crisis is hurting conservation of the Indian Ocean island's unique wildlife, a study shows.
The discovery, which almost doubles the number of known amphibians in Madagascar, illustrates an underestimation of the natural riches that have helped spawn a $390-million-a-year tourism industry.
However, months of instability culminating in a change of government after street protests, have compromised gains in conservation.
"The political instability is allowing the cutting of the forest within national parks, generating a lot of uncertainty about the future of the planned network of protected areas," David Vieites, researcher at the Spanish National Natural Sciences Museum, said in a statement.
The world's fourth-largest island, known for exotic creatures such as the ring-tailed lemur and poisonous frogs, is a biodiversity hotspot.
More than 80 percent of the mammals in Madagascar are found nowhere else, while all but one of the 217 previously known species of amphibian are believed by scientists to be native.
"People think that we know which plant and animal species live on this planet," team member Miguel Vences, professor at the Technical University of Braunschweig, said in the statement.
"But the centuries of discoveries has only just begun -- the majority of life forms on Earth is still awaiting scientific recognition."
Human demands on the land and decades of rampant logging have destroyed 80 percent of Madagascar's rain forest, threatening hundreds of species, he said.
The study, carried out by the Spanish Scientific Research Council (CSIC), and published in the May issue of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, suggests the find of between 129 and 221 new species of frogs could double the number of amphibians globally if the results are extrapolated worldwide.
Almost a quarter of the new species discovered have not yet been found in unprotected areas, the study stated.
Madagascar broke away from Africa almost 160 million years ago, leaving its flora and fauna to develop in isolation.
© Thomson Reuters 2009 All rights reserved

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