Monday, September 10, 2007

"Golden" Poison Frog Discovered

The colorful new species of toxic frog can only be found in a patch of Colombian forest the size of ten city blocks.
It's a good thing this frog is small, because it doesn't have much room to maneuver.

This newly discovered species of poison frog is a mere 0.8 inch (2 centimeters) long and exists only in a patch of forest about the size of ten city blocks.

Scientists discovered the tiny amphibian in February while surveying the high-elevation cloud forests of central Colombia.

The animal, dubbed the golden frog of Supatá, has a range of just 50 acres (20 hectares), which experts say may explain why it had not been discovered earlier.

The new species belongs to a group of dart frogs, some of which are extremely toxic, said Giovanni Chaves, a biologist with the nonprofit Conservation Leadership Program that organized the expedition.

"They possess [compounds] that can be very toxic if they are ingested or have contact with any mucous [membrane] or open wound," he said.

But the real danger in the region is not the frog, Chaves said—it's the mounting environmental threats that are encroaching on the animal's slim habitat.

"This frog exists in a little fragment of cloud forest that is under intense anthropogenic pressure, mainly the destruction of the forest for cattle-raising and agriculture," he said.

"This discovery allows us to know a little more about the ecology of these beautiful animals, and it will also allow us to use it as a symbol to carry out campaigns of environmental education in this area, to show the need to protect and to conserve the fauna and flora of this region of Colombia."

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