University of Costa Rica Scientists Locate Frog Believed Extinct

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Researchers at the University of Costa Rica recently observed a neotropical frog that hasn’t been observed for at least 30 years and which had therefore been declared extinct by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

The rediscovery of the species, Craugastor escoces, or red-bellied frog, occurred in the Juan Castro Blanco National Park,  located in the province of Alajuela, near Ciudad Quesada and San Ramón, reported the UCR this week.

In 2004, the IUCN declared three frog species in Costa Rica to be extinct, and two have since been observed: the red-bellied frog and the deaf toad, also known as the Holdridge toad, both of whom inhabit Cerro Chompipe in Heredia.

This most recent discovery, of the red-bellied frog, was located by researchers Gilbert Alvarado Barboza, of the University of Costa Rica (UCR), and Randall Jiménez, a PhD student at the University of Ulm, Germany.

The country started experiencing amphibian declines in 1989, according to the IUCN, with the golden toad or Monteverde toad, the first frog species to be declared extinct apparently due to global warming effects.

The Craugastor escoces is a brown frog with a characteristic red belly, making its identification easy as it is the only such one with these traits, said the UCR researchers. The finding, and adult female measuring a little more than 6 centimeters, occurred last year during a routine amphibian sampling as part of a research project.

The scientists decided to keep the specimen alive and to start an amphibian conservation program at the UCR. The program will be based at the UCR’s Alfredo Volio Mata Experimental Station in Ochomogo, Cartago.

“Each animal is a product of evolution and is a design that has taken millions of years to acquire the genetic material that forms that species. When you lose a species, not only does that leave an empty niche, but also the function that it fulfills as well as its biological design disappears,” explained Alvarado.

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