Fieldwork finds a frog originally believed extinct

By Rommel Téllez
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

After 30 years hidden from human eyes and 13 years after it was officially declared as extinct by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, the red-belly frog has reappeared thanks to the field inspections carried out by School of Biology at Universidad de Costa Rica.

The frog’s comeback was officially announced last Tuesday morning during the celebration of the Environment Week at the university’s main campus in San Pedro de Montes de Oca, San José.

However, it was first found on Sept 19, 2016 in the Parque Nacional Juan Castro Blanco, located in the city of Ciudad Quesada, in the province of Alajuela.

That day, researchers Gilberth Alvarado and Randall Jiménez were performing a routine amphibians sampling when they came across a specimen.

The frog is an adult female, brown and about six centimeters long.

Right away, scientists noticed the red mark on the belly and knew they stumbled upon a huge discovery.

The finding occurred at an altitude of 1,820 meters. Biologists concluded there must be a population around the area. Little is known about the species, as it has been hardly studied.

“It was a completely clear night, without rain, stars and a full moon, all the required conditions for not seeing frogs,” Alvarado said.

The scientists decided to keep the specimen alive, and start an Amphibian Conservation Program at the Universidad de Costa Rica.

For that purpose, a special site has been designed in order to keep the frog in captivity and encourage their reproduction with the right temperature, humidity and asepsy.

This space is under construction and will be located at the Experimental Station Alfredo Volio Mata in Ochomogo, province of Cartago.

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

In 2004, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature declared three species of amphibians that existed only in Costa Rica as extinct.

However two of them have reappeared, according to the School of Biology. One is the the red-bellied frog and the other the deaf toad or toad of Holdridge, which inhabited Cerro Chompipe in Heredia.

The third one, the golden toad or Monteverde toad, which became a symbol of amphibian decline has not yet resurfaced and it is considered the first victim of global warming.

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