Adam reports on Panama work

During July and August I spent time working with amphibians in Western Panama.  Most of the work was carried out at high elevations, searching for endangered species. High elevation forests are usually home to many unusual and diverse amphibians, but due to the climate in the highlands being quite cool compared to the heated lowlands its also an environment where the deadly chytrid fungous is able to thrive. As a result, these areas have suffered massive amphibian declines within the past decade, with species that were once believed to be common now facing extinction.

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High elevation cloud forest, Western Panama (c) Adam Bland

For the first week of our fieldwork it was decided we visit what is to believed to be the last known site in Panama for the Red-eyed Stream Frog, Duellmanohyla uranochroa.  This is a critically endangered species of stream breeding tree frog, which also occurs in few sites in Costa Rica.  Andreas Hertz, who was a member of our team, last surveyed this site in 2008 which resulted in finding only 2 adult specimens and few tadpoles. These all tested positive for chytrid infection so he was very keen to return to the site to see how this population was getting on. Well,  I am very pleased to say that after many hours searching late into the night we discovered several populations of this beautiful species still living along three separate streams. Within the streams we also discovered many tadpoles!

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Duellmanohyla Uranochroa (c) Adam Bland

Every individual adult and tadpole was swabbed for chytrid and released. However,  although we suspect they were still infected with the fungus it appears that these animals may have found a way to survive it because they all appeared to be extremely healthy.  To find this population doing well and perhaps even on the increase is great news for this species, which not too long ago was considered to be possibly extinct! Although their existence appears to be in a very fine balance, and further research is needed to assess the status of amphibian populations in these mysterious cloud-filled forests, its very encouraging to know some may be recovering from past die-offs.

Adam’s Page           Footage of Duellmanohyla uranochroa            Brian’s Page

Below is Brian Kubicki in Costa Rica with the very closely related species, Duellmanohyla rufioculis:

 

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