News & Events
U of S researchers discover three new species of poisonous Colombian frogs
Posted on 2018-07-27 in Science & Technology
The three new Oophaga frog species, which the researchers have named anchicayensis, andresi and solanensis (pictured), stand on their own because of their genetic differences from existing groups.
University of Saskatchewan researchers José Andrés and Andrés Posso-Terranova have discovered three new species of poisonous dart frogs — tiny and incredibly colourful animals that live deep in the Colombian jungle and appear to be already at risk of extinction.
By studying more than 300 dart frogs, the researchers have found that two existing Oophaga frog species actually “hid” three additional groups, and that there are actually a total of five species.
The results, just published in the journal Molecular Ecology, will allow the researchers to provide Colombian policy makers with evidence that can inform targeted conservation strategies for these endangered frogs.
“Our finding is crucial to study life diversity,” said Andrés, a biology professor in the U of S College of Arts and Science. “Some species may disappear even before we have the chance to study them.”
The three new Oophaga frog species, which the researchers have named anchicayensis, andresi and solanensis, stand on their own because of their genetic differences from existing groups. They also show unique colour patterns and size, and live only in certain areas of the northern and northwestern Colombian jungle.
Colombia is a hotspot for frog populations in general, with around 800 species — a staggering 17 per cent of around 4,600 known frog species in the world. Canada doesn’t even reach one per cent.
The researchers’ modern identification approach, which integrates the study of genetics, colour patterns (morphology) and ecological information, has helped them debunk a previous 1976 study that reported the existence only of two dart frogs species — Oophaga histrionica and Oophaga lehmanni.
Because it was considered a large group, histrionica frogs were labelled at the time as a “least concern species” in the Colombian government’s conservation list, while the less numerous lehmanni frogs were listed as “critically endangered.”
“The government has worked hard on developing conservation programs that have actually helped lehmanni frogs escape extinction,” said Posso-Terranova. “This means conservation strategies work.”
He notes that naming new species is the only way for Colombia to include animals in the list of endangered species.
“If we don’t know new species exist, how can we protect them? Naming and identifying new species is like currency for conservation policies,” he said.
Andrés and Posso-Terranova’s discovery might also help put the brakes on the illegal pet trade that threatens the survival of dart frogs.
The animals are often sold for more than $2,000 on the international black market because of their beautiful bright colours that mix black with a variation of yellow, orange or red, along with their “dangerous” appeal.
The frogs are traditionally used by Colombian Indigenous hunters for poisoning blowgun darts. The poison, which the frogs produce because they eat toxic bugs, is harmful to humans only if it enters their bloodstream.
“With new policies in place, the government could help poor local populations, who make a living off illegal frog trade, start alternative business such as cultivating flowers or cocoa beans,” said Posso-Terranova.
CBC News: From room-sized machines to power in your pocket
Posted on 2018-10-15
Retired prof talks about 50 years of computer science at the U of S
Taller plants slowly replacing short grasses, bushes in North
Posted on 2018-10-11
Research shows that as the Arctic warms up, the habitat of plants and animals is rapidly changing
U of S researchers awarded $8M to tackle social, climate issues
Posted on 2018-10-09
Computer science professor Regan Mandryk will study how the design of multiplayer videogames can have positive or harmful interactions among players
U of S, U.S. company explore blockchain technology to support researchers in sharing papers, data
Posted on 2018-10-04
DLT technology allows for the creation of permanent trusted records of data
U of S geology professor to be honoured with international Outstanding Educator Award
Posted on 2018-10-03
Professor M. Gabriela Mángano will receive the award from the Association for Women Geoscientists (AWG)
Student-curated exhibition highlights history of computers
Posted on 2018-09-21
Vintage computers are displayed among artifacts from antiquity at the Museum of Antiquities