Sunday, 28 September 2014

Andinobates Geminisae: New Fingernail Sized Poison Dart Frog from Panama

Andinobates geminisae dart frog holotype
This is the hololotype specimen that the researchers
used to describe the newly discovered
Andinobates geminisae
Credit: Cesar Jaramillo, STRI
A team of scientists from the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, the Universidad Autónoma de Chiriquí in Panama, and the Universidad de los Andes in Colombia recently announced the discovery of a new bright orange poison dart frog.

The new species is so small that it can fit on a fingernail and was found in a rain forest near the Caribbean coast, Donoso, Panama.

The species was scientifically described as Andinobates geminisae after Geminis Vargas, "the beloved wife of Marcos Ponce [co-author], for her unconditional support of his studies of Panamanian herpetology."

The holotype [a single type specimen upon which the description and name of a new species is based] was collected in February 21, 2011, in the headwaters of the Rio Caño, in the district of Donoso, Colón Province, Panama, by Samuel Valdés, who was then the MWH Global Inc. environment office director, and his field assistant, Carlos de la Cruz. Additional specimens were collected between the Rio Coclé del Norte and the Rio Belen by biologists Marcos Ponce and Abel Batista, then a student at the Universidad Autónoma de Chiriquí.

"Abel Batista and Marcos Ponce were the first to note the presence of this species. They've known it was there for several years. However, they were not sure if it was only a variety of another poison dart frog species, Oophaga pumilio, which exhibits tremendous color variation. Based on morphological characteristics of the adult and the tadpole, I thought it might be a new species of Andinobates." said Cesar Jaramillo, Smithsonian herpetologist.

Andrew Crawford, professor at Universidad de Los Andes and former STRI postdoctoral fellow, sequenced the DNA of the newly found frog and confirmed that it indeed belonged to a new Andinobates species.

Because Andinobates geminisae appears to occur in a limited area, the researchers have expressed fears that habitat loss and collection for the pet trade may pose a major threat to its survival and have recommended the formulation of special conservation plans.

"Andinobates geminisae occurs in Caribbean versant rainforest on the westernmost edge of the known distribution of A. minutus, and represents the fourth species within this genus in Panama. This is vulnerable to habitat loss and excessive harvesting and requires immediate conservation plans to preserve this species with a restricted geographic range." wrote the authors.
"It is important we save some of this frog’s tiny habitat to be able to study this unusual species more." said co-author Crawford to National Geographic.

Brief Description
Adults have an electric-orange color and a length of about 12.5 mm (~0.5 in). The new species looks nothing like its closest genetic relatives found in the region, by having a uniformly orange smooth skin and a distinctive male advertisement call. Furthermore, its much smaller than the area's other poison dart frogs.

Instead, Andinobates geminisae superficially looks much more like the strawberry poison dart frog(Oophaga pumilio).
"Perhaps A. geminisae had been observed previously but was confused with Oophaga." said Crawford to National Geographic.

The two frogs may also share the same orange warning signal to predators, an evolutionary trait known as Müllerian mimicry. Müllerian mimicry is a natural phenomenon in which two or more poisonous species, that may or may not be closely related and share one or more common predators, have come to mimic each other's warning signals. But Crawford says this is just a theory.

All in all, the species is a mystery and not much is known about it, including its behavioral and reproductive patterns. The discovery of an adult with a tadpole stuck to its back gives some clues, suggesting that it cares for its young. In other poison dart frogs of the same genus, the tadpoles hatch, adults piggyback them one by one to small pools of water, where they develop into froglets. The authors suspect that A. geminisae may also carry its youngs to water trapped in tree hollows or leaves.

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Amphibia
Order: Anura
Family: Dendrobatidae
Subfamily: Dendrobatinae
Genus: Andinobates
Species: Andinobates geminisae

You may also like

- The specimens were deposited in the Museo de Vertebrados at the University of Panama, the Museo Herpetólogico de Chiriquí at the Universidad Autónoma de Chiriquí and in the Círculo Herpetólogico de Panamá.
- Genetic information about the species is available in the Barcode of Life Data System and in GenBank
Andinobates geminisae is now included in the captive breeding program of the Panama Amphibian Rescue and Conservation project, a consortium of six zoos and research institutions dedicated to saving amphibians from the chytrid fungal disease, which is decimating amphibians worldwide, and habitat loss.

- BATISTA, A., JARAMILLO, C., PONCE, M., & CRAWFORD, A. (2014). A new species of Andinobates (Amphibia: Anura: Dendrobatidae) from west central Panama Zootaxa, 3866 (3) DOI: 10.11646/zootaxa.3866.3.2
- Owen, James. "Mysterious New Poison Dart Frog Found; Is Size of Fingernail." National Geographic. N.p., Sept.-Oct. 2014. Web.

No comments:

Post a Comment