South­ern Dar­win’s frog

This month, the spot­light falls on an am­phib­ian dis­cov­ered by nat­u­ral­ist Charles Dar­win.

BBC Wildlife Magazine - - Wild News - DANTÉ FENOLIO is vice pres­i­dent of Con­ser­va­tion at San An­to­nio Zoo. FIND OUT MORE visit the CACC web­site: savedar­wins­

What are its big­gest threats? What’s unique about Dar­win’s frog?

Dar­win’s frogs live in cen­tral and south­ern Chile and parts of Ar­gentina, in­hab­it­ing tem­per­ate rain­forests, of­ten along the banks of streams. They are the only am­phib­ians prac­tic­ing vo­cal sac brood­ing, where male frogs scoop fer­tilised eggs into their mouths be­fore ma­noeu­vring them into their vo­cal sacs for safe­keep­ing, where they re­main for 65–85 days. The south­ern Dar­win’s frog, Rhin­o­derma dar­winii, is the only species still hang­ing on in the wild – its north­ern coun­ter­part, Rhin­o­derma ru­fum, hasn’t been spot­ted in decades. Habi­tat loss and land con­ver­sion. Mono­cul­ture tree farms have re­placed much of Chile’s tem­per­ate rain­forests, with pine and eu­ca­lyp­tus trees gain­ing pop­u­lar­ity for their abil­ity to grow quickly and yield cash crops. But the coun­try’s wild an­i­mals rarely in­habit sin­gle-species tree groves, and pine nee­dles and eu­ca­lyp­tus leaves al­ter the wa­ter chem­istry of drainage sys­tems.

What about Chytrid­iomy­co­sis?

This in­fec­tious fun­gal disease has caused dra­matic am­phib­ian de­clines in many parts of the world and has made its way to Chile, where it has in­fected some Dar­win’s frogs. In­va­sive species are also an is­sue – for ex­am­ple, African aquatic frogs, im­ported for the pet trade, carry dis­eases and com­pete with na­tive am­phib­ians for re­sources.

Can con­ser­va­tion­ists save the Dar­win’s frog from ex­tinc­tion?

We’re fight­ing against the de­vel­op­ment of hy­dro­elec­tric dams, mon­i­tor­ing the spread of wildlife dis­eases, and work­ing to main­tain cur­rent for­est pre­serves. To pre­vent ex­tinc­tion, as­sur­ance colonies of the most en­dan­gered species must be es­tab­lished with cap­tive re­pro­duc­tion pro­grammes. If we elim­i­nate disease in wild habi­tats, the off­spring of as­sur­ance colonies can re­pop­u­late pro­tected forests. For 11 years, the Chilean Am­phib­ian Con­ser­va­tion Cen­ter (CACC) has bred the South­ern Dar­win’s frog in cap­tiv­ity at two cen­tres. It will open a third lab­o­ra­tory at Aus­tral Univer­sity in Val­divia, Chile, in Fe­bru­ary 2019. Mil­lie Kerr

Male Dar­win’s frogs carry fer­tilised eggs in their vo­cal sacs un­til the froglets are ready to ven­ture into the world.

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