Thursday, 25 May 2017

See-through frog has heart you can see beating through its chest

25 May 2017
By Lou del Bello

A newly discovered glass frog species whose beating heart is visible through its chest is already feared to be in danger, because its habitat is threatened by oil exploitation.

The frog (Hyalinobatrachium yaku), identified through a combination of fieldwork in the Amazonian lowlands of Ecuador and DNA sequencing in the lab, displays unique physical and behavioural traits.

The dark green spots on its back and its call and reproductive behaviour mark it out as different from already known frogs.

“Males guard the eggs, which are attached below a tree’s leaves, until they hatch and fall on the below water stream,” says Juan Guayasamin, of the Universidad San Francisco de Quito, in Ecuador. “I work with frogs every day and this is one of the most beautiful species I have ever seen.”

“Not all glass frogs have hearts that are visible through the chest. In some, the heart itself is white, so you don’t see the red blood,” says Paul Hamilton, of US non-profit organisation the Biodiversity Group.
Under threat

It’s not known why different species have different levels of transparency, but this frog “will help us understand the evolutionary pattern that led to frogs being glass-like”,

“Amphibians are the most threatened vertebrate class on the planet,” says Ariadne Angulo of the amphibian specialist group at the International Union for Conservation of Nature. “The group’s species richness has not been fully discovered yet. Since 2005, we have been identifying between 100 and 200 new amphibian species per year.”

Far fewer new mammals and birds are discovered, because a higher proportion of species have already been described, says Angulo. However, she adds, “because there are so many undiscovered amphibian species out there, given our current rate of environmental degradation, some may become extinct before we even know them”.

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