Scientists discover new poison dart frog species in Donoso, Panama

Andinobates geminisae

A bright orange poison dart frog with a unique call was discovered in Donoso, Panama, and described by researchers from the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute and the Universidad Autónoma de Chiriquí in Panama, and the Universidad de los Andes in Colombia. In the species description published this week in Zootaxa, it was named Andinobates geminisae for Geminis Vargas, “the beloved wife of [coauthor] Marcos Ponce, for her unconditional support of his studies of Panamanian herpetology.”

Every new species name is based on a representative specimen. The specimen for this species was collected Feb. 21, 2011, in the headwaters of the Rio Caño, in the district of Donoso, Colón Province, Panama, by Samuel Valdés, who was then the MWH Global Inc. environment office director, and his field assistant, Carlos de la Cruz. Additional specimens were collected between the Rio Coclé del Norte and the Rio Belen by biologists Marcos Ponce and Abel Batista, then a student at the Universidad Autónoma de Chiriquí. The specimens were deposited in the Museo de Vertebrados at the University of Panama, the Museo Herpetólogico de Chiriquí at the Universidad Autónoma de Chiriquí and in the Círculo Herpetólogico de Panamá.

“Abel Batista and Marcos Ponce were the first to note the presence of this species,” said Cesar Jaramillo, Smithsonian herpetologist. “They’ve known it was there for several years. However, they were not sure if it was only a variety of another poison dart frog species, Oophaga pumilio, which exhibits tremendous color variation. Based on morphological characteristics of the adult and the tadpole, I thought it might be a new species of Andinobates.”

Andrew Crawford, professor at Universidad de Los Andes and former STRI postdoctoral fellow, sequenced the DNA, confirming that this was a new species of Andinobates. Genetic information about this species is available in the Barcode of Life Data System and in GenBank. A recording of the call is available at AmphibiaWeb.org.

Because this new frog species appears to be found in only a very small area, habitat loss and collecting for the pet trade are major threats to its existence. The authors recommend the formulation of special conservation plans to guarantee its survival. A. geminisae is included in the captive breeding program of the Panama Amphibian Rescue and Conservation project, a consortium of six zoos and research institutions dedicated to saving amphibians from the chytrid fungal disease, which is decimating amphibians worldwide, and habitat loss.

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All collecting and export were done with permission from Panama’s Environmental Authority, ANAM. Financial support for this study came from MWH Global Inc. and Minera Panama. Funding for DNA sequencing was provided by a CBOL grant to barcode the vertebrates of Panama.

For more information about amphibian biodiversity in Panama, visit amphibianrescue.org or the Smithsonian’s new exhibit, Las Fabulosas Ranas de Panama, at Culebra Point Nature Center on Amador Causeway in Panama City.

The Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, headquartered in Panama City, Panama, is a unit of the Smithsonian Institution. The Institute furthers the understanding of tropical nature and its importance to human welfare, trains students to conduct research in the tropics and promotes conservation by increasing public awareness of the beauty and importance of tropical ecosystems. Website: http://www.stri.si.edu. Promo video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M9JDSIwBegk

Batista, A., Jaramillo, C.A., Ponce, M., Crawford, A. 2014 A new species of Andinobates (Amphibia:Dendrobatidae) from west central Panama. Zootaxa 3:333-352 http://dx.doi.org/10.11646/zootaxa.3866.3.2

Frog Friday! Strawberry Poison Dart Frog

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Look, but don’t touch! Strawberry poison dart frogs (Oophaga pumilio) are known for their strikingly beautiful skin colors. Their bright color serves as a warning to predators that they are toxic. This type of “warning coloration” is called aposematism.  In the wild Oophaga pumilio gets its toxicity from its diet of ants and termites. The frogs we maintain in captivity in our exhibit Fabulous Frogs of Panama are fed small crickets and fruit flies. This change in diet eradicates any trace of poison in these frogs when they are raised in captivity

Strawberry poison dart frogs are generally a small species, about 0.75 to 1.5 inches (20 to 40 mm) in length. They are also mostly diurnal, and can be heard calling in the flooded forest.There are many poison frogs in the Dendrobatidae family with slightly different distributional ranges that can be found in Central America and northern South America. The species Oophaga pumilio are found in Mesoamerican countries and Panama.

Did you know? An Oophaga pumilio look alike was recently discovered in Panama by STRI scientist Cesar Jaramillo with  Abel Batista and Marcos Ponce (UNACHI) and Andrew Crawford (Universidad de los Andes). This new species Andinobates geminisae is still being described. Click here for more information.

Post by Dara Wilson

 

Frog Friday! Rainforest Rocket Frog

Rainforest Rocket Frog/ Rana cohete

5414839990_62033ee506_zThe rainforest rocket frog is a small frog with a mighty leap! This species of frog occurs in humid lowlands from Costa Rica to Panama. It is a diurnal species with a wide distribution, is tolerant of varying degrees of habitat change, and has been well recorded in a number of protected areas. For these reasons, there is little concern over the continued survival of this species. However, they are still threatened, like most amphibians, by general habitat loss caused by deforestation.

Silverstoneia flotator consume a multiplicity of small arthropods. In the Punta Culebra Nature Center frog exhibit, Fabulous Frogs of Panama, the Rainforest Rocket Frog eats small fruit flies. Males are territorial and will wrestle with other males to defend their territories (Savage 2002). There is currently one male in the exhibit and five more rocket frogs will be introduced in the upcoming weeks. So there are sure to be some interesting encounters in the exhibit!

Did you know? You can distinguish a mature male Silverstoneia flotator by its swollen middle finger. Males also have a pale grey throat color, while females have white-colored throats. The female frog lays her eggs in the leaf litter of a male’s territory, and when they hatch the male transports the tadpoles to nearby streams (Savage 2002). This is just one of many diverse reproductive strategies seen in Panamanian frogs. Stay tuned for next week’s #frogfriday to continue learning about the frogs of Panama!

Post by Dara Wilson

 

The 2014 Golden Frog Festival: Saving a National Treasure

GF with kids

 

HIGHLIGHTS

Participants: 2000

School Groups: 13 school groups – 300 students

Teacher Workshops: 3 workshops – 70 participants

Volunteers: 80

MEDIA COVERAGE

Radio & TV Spots: 10

News Articles: 7

Media Websites: 3

Social Media Statistics
Social media views*
        STRI Facebook page 19,717(18 posts)
        Punta Culebra Facebook page

PARC Facebook page

4,131(16  posts)

60,898 (41 Posts)

Festival event page 214 likes
Twitter hashtag used

Youtube video views

29

1023(7 videos)

*Total # of views for all posts about festival

 Youtube videos released to promote Golden Frog Festival

Name of Video # of Views # of Subscriptions driven # of shares
I love frogs 92 0 2
There’s a fungus among us 28 0 0
The Golden Frog 302 1 1
PARC Project 38 0 0
How can you help? 10 0 0
Frogs in culture 194 1 3
Why frogs matter 359 3 6
Total 1023 5 12

In August the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI) and partners celebrated the fourth annual Golden Frog Festival. The festival, consisting of various events held throughout Panama, calls local and global attention to the ecological and cultural value of the Panamanian golden frog and global amphibian declines. A major highlight of the festival was the opening of Fabulous Frogs of Panama, a new exhibit at Punta Culebra Nature Center featuring some of the world’s most beautiful, and endangered, frog species.

The festival kicked off on August 4 with a series of teacher workshops in El Valle de Anton led by Smithsonian Education Specialist Lidia Valencia and Peace Corps Response Volunteer Hannah Arney. Seventy teachers attended three workshop to learn about the new curriculum “Fabulous Frogs of Panama, which provides educational activities for use in teaching their students about amphibian biodiversity and conservation.

 

"Congratulations on this workshop that offered us greater knowledge of nature and science. The workshop was  practical and easy to apply to any grade level." Quote from a teacher who participated in the workshop

“Congratulations on this workshop that offered us greater knowledge of nature and science. The workshop was practical and easy to apply to any grade level.” ~ workshop participant

 

PARC scientists Jorge Guerrel and Rigoberto Diaz introduced the festival on the Panamanian national lottery highlighting the importance of the golden frog and encouraging Panamanians to help conserve amphibians.

 

 

Later that evening, the first Science in the City public talk was held at the Rana Dorada Pub. The event, held at one of our main sponsor’s venues, featured PARC scientist Jorge Guerrel and indigenous artisian Lanky Cheucarama. The pub talk was a vibrant mix of indigenous culture, conservation, education, and superb food & drinks!

 

Punta Culebra Nature Center held its soft opening of the new exhibit, “Fabulous Frogs of Panama.”  Sharon Ryan, public programs director at STRI, Matthew Larsen, STRI director, and Sylvia Cesaratto, the Canadian Ambassador for Panama, spoke about the importance of amphibians as national, cultural and biological treasures before inviting participants to visit the new exhibit.

The second Science in the City talk was held in the historic district of Casco Antiguo at the American Trade Hotel. Sharon Ryan, STRI’s director of public programs, and Brian Gratwicke, lead conservation biologist for the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, talked about the PARC ‘s amphibian research, rescue and education programs.

 La Tribu finalized their performance by inviting a group of local school children to make an oath to live in harmony with the amphibians.

Performance by La Tribu

Throughout the day many people also contributed to a collective mural with the art & design studio La Tienda De Remedios

 The weekend was jam-packed with events and activities for families and frog enthusiasts. On Saturday, August 16, El Valle de Anton, the community where the PARC project began, held a family day to promote golden frog conservation. Local businesses and community groups supported the events – which included a performance by acrobatic group La Tribu, and a variety of fund and educational activities.  An estimated 500 people, mostly children, attended the event.

On Sunday August 17th, the Punta Culebra Nature Center hosted a frog themed family day to celebrate the launch of their new exhibit. The day’s events included face painting, informational presentations by STRI scientists, and frog themed games. The Rana Dorada food truck also came out to sell their delicious hamburgers and tacos.  La Tribu reprised their presentation from El Valle, and taught visitors about the importance of taking care of frogs and their habitat.

 

 

The final event of the 2014 Golden Frog Festival was a 5K/15K walk/race held in El Valle de Anton. This was the first trail walk/run race in Panama focused on raising awareness about wildlife conservation. Participants went through trails surrounding the beautiful Hotel Campestre while spectators, families, and children all watched in support.

 

Golden frog saving a life at the race in El Valle

Golden frog saving a life at the race in El Valle

Special thanks to:

  • The Festival Planning Committee (Sharon Ryan, Roberto Ibañez, Jorge Aleman, Nelly Florez, Sonia Tejada, Alvaro Gonzalez, Hannah Arney, Rigoberto Diaz, Lidia Valencia, Adrian Benedetti, Ana Matilde Ruiz, Ana Endara, Sean Mattson, Carlos Celis, Ana Lucrecia Arosemena, Heidi Ross, Dayra Navarro, Lanky Cheucarama, Dara Wilson)
  • Amphibian Rescue and Conservation Project
  • Culebra guides
  • All volunteers that contributed to the events
  • Brian Gratwicke
  • Stratego Communications

Sponsors:

towerbank-logo-glow ATH logo la_rana_dorada_logo2

  • El Rey
  • Caminando Panama
  • APRADAP
  • The North Face
  • Sportshealth
  • Suunto
  • Purissima
  • Organica
  • Tacfit Panama
  • The TRI Store
  • Deka Music Group

Post by Dara Wilson, Media and Outreach Volunteer, Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute

New education tab launched!

fabulosas ranas cover

Lots of exciting things are happening with amphibian education here in Panama! The brand new exhibit “Fabulous Frogs of Panama” is open at Punta Culebra Nature Center on the Amador Causeway in Panama City, Panama. In conjunction with this exhibit the Punta Culebra staff and I have designed a whole new curriculum of activities to do with visiting school groups.  The curriculum is a product of collaboration by Smithsonian educators, PARC scientists, and myself. Thanks to Catherine de Rivera and the rest of her wonderful group from Portland State University we received training on inquiry-based learning techniques, and we are incorporating these methods in our brand new amphibian curriculum. It includes activities such as a dichotomous key to help students learn to identify amphibians, strategies that amphibians use to avoid predation, the frog life cycle, and the effects of chytrid fungus on amphibian skin. We have published a version of this curriculum right here on amphibianrescue.org, under the brand new education tab.  Coming soon we will also include on the education tab a virtual tour of the exhibit, videos, and other bilingual materials to be utilized by educators.  So stay tuned for exciting updates to this section of the website!

Ranas de Panama currículo

By Hannah Arney, Peace Corps Response Volunteer, Science and Biodiversity Curriculum Specialist, Punta Culebra Nature Center

Calling all creative thinkers: Convocation of Frog Art

We invite you to submit your own version of the frog template for the 2014 Golden Frog Festival: Saving a National Treasure. The Golden Frog is Panama’s cultural, biological, and national icon. In celebration of the frog and in the spirit of amphibian rescue and conservation, we want to showcase Panamanian pride and creativity with this convocation of Golden Frog themed art!

RD_ARTE_RANATICOS

MAKE YOUR OWN VERSION OR USE OUR TEMPLATES

Draw, color, sculpt, construct, distort…

The only requirement is that your art reflects the original image of the golden frog template in some way. Whatever you imagine will work!

Make it and share it

Click to download amphibian coloring sheet 1

Click to download amphibian coloring sheet 2

Click to download amphibian coloring sheet 3

Save the file as a high-resolution PDF or JPG image. There is no limit to the number of pieces you can submit.

When your work is complete tweet us your photo at:
#ranaticos

All of the finished pieces will be shown on the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute’s facebook page

WE LOOK FORWARD TO YOUR SUBMISSIONS!

Panamanian Golden Frog celebrations 2014

The 2014 Panamanian Golden Frog celebrations will be held in Panama City and El Valle de Anton. The festival, now in its fourth year, celebrates the iconic Panamanian Golden frog while highlighting the amphibian’s unique, cultural role in Panama’s history. Communities across the country will engage in activities and events in hopes of preserving Panama’s national treasure.

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The festival, scheduled to be held August 9-17, 2014, kicks off with a series of instructor workshops for five schools in El Valle de Antón. Teachers will introduce a new amphibian curriculum and Clubes de Ranas (Frog Clubs) will be launched in the schools. Shortly afterwards, the Punta Culebra Nature Center will feature new educational activities promoting frog conservation in 24 school groups, that’s over 600 students!

Adults have no need to despair; schoolchildren will not be the only ones having fun during the festival. There are several events planned for adults and professionals, including talks with STRI scientists, a performance by the theatrical group “Tribu,” and a demonstration by a very talented indigenous artisan who specializes in frog sculpturing.

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Some events to look forward to include the Ciencia en la Ciudad (Science in the City) talks held by two of the proud sponsors for the festival. One talk will be held in the historic district of Casco Viejo at the American Trade Hotel and another talk will be at the Rana Dorada Restaurant.

10466983_10154412450515402_4177462776396443381_oPerhaps the most exciting event will be the launch of a new amphibian exhibit and education program at the Punta Culebra Nature Center! STRI is very pleased to coincide this year’s festival with the launch of the new exhibit, “The Fabulous Frogs of Panama.” The amphibian exhibit features several species of frogs and toads found in Panama. Ribbon cutting ceremonies are scheduled on August 14, 2014 the National Golden Frog holiday.

Finally, for the runners out there on August 24th we have a 5K / 15 K trail run in El Valle de Anton.

10393545_711556335581382_2018232539730959374_nFestival coordinators expect the festival to attract over 8000 participants this year. So make sure you are there to experience the events for Panama’s national cultural and biological treasure!

Keep up to date with our event page on facebook

Written by Dara Wilson

School kids hop to it & save frogs!

IMG_1110Jumping from the “Lemur Frog Leap” station to the “Robber Frog Romp”, bouncing between the “Harlequin Frog Hop” to “Toad Mountain Tiddlywinks” and topping the afternoon off with “Golden Frog Gallop” sack races, elementary students at the American School of The Hague (ASH) helped give amphibian research a leg-up last week and made conservation fun! Each student who participated in the Hop To It! event donated 5 Euros to Panama’s Amphibian Rescue and Conservation Project. With their contribution, young conservationists earned a ticket into the frog-themed field day where they could move between six stations that focused on moving their bodies like frogs.

IMG_1103Students in grades 1-4 at ASH have been celebrating the “Year of the Frog” in their science lab during the 2013-14 school year. In science class, students learned about what makes amphibians unique and fragile critters. Young scientists then invited their families to attend an interactive exhibit where they could explore hands-on activities, view photographs of rainforest frogs, try to match calls of frogs to their makers, as well as share their knowledge of amphibians with their parents. The conservation section of the exhibit focused on the international epidemic of chytrid fungus (Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis) that is negatively impacting amphibian populations worldwide. Students at ASH come from 74 different countries and many kids were surprised to hear that frogs from the canals of The Netherlands to waterways in their home countries are all getting sick from this same mysterious fungus.

Last Wednesday, as students happily hopped their way to an 830 Euro ($1123.00) contribution towards research that will help to fight the devastating impacts of chytrid, one 4th grader summed it up “Kids like frogs and we want them to stick around. If we need to hop a little to help them, we’ll do it!”

by Simone Welch, teacher and former volunteer with the Panama Amphibian Rescue and Conservation Project.

Researchers develop new method to test an amphibian’s susceptibility to the deadly amphibian chytrid fungus.

This new method could help us to test out new probiotic therapies and predict a captive-bred frog's survival from exposure to chytrid fungus, without ever having to expose them to it.

This new method could help us to test out new probiotic therapies. It can predict a captive-bred frog’s survival from exposure to chytrid fungus, without ever having to expose them to it experimentally.

Researchers at the University of Boulder Colorado, University of Zurich and Copenhagen University have developed a new method to predict how susceptible an amphibian is to a frog-killing fungus wiping out amphibians all over the world. The test looks at the antifungal properties of skin mucus that contains skin bacteria and chemicals secreted by the frog itself. Together the interactions between the skin bacteria and chemical secreted from glands on the frog skin are the frog’s first line of defense against skin disease.

Their paper, just published in PLOS One, sampled 8,500 frogs across Europe. They found that antifungal properties of the mucus were related to the prevalence of amphibian chytrid infection in natural populations. They found that when they experimentally exposed frogs to the chytrid fungus in a lab that they could predict survival of frogs based on an independent mucus sample. The researchers also found that when they added beneficial skin bacteria to the frogs that the anti-fungal properties of the skin were improved.

This study may help us to develop tools that we could use to reintroduce frogs back into areas affected by the frog-killing fungus, including Panama. “We have all these amphibians in captivity now, like the golden frog in Panama, a really beautiful species that is now extinct in the wild,” said Douglas Woodhams, a postdoctoral researcher at CU-Boulder and lead author of the paper. “We want to be able to reintroduce them, but the pathogen that attacked them is still out there,” he said. “Now we can determine what probiotic treatment might work best to protect the frogs without infecting them with the pathogen and seeing how many die.”

http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi/10.1371/journal.pone.0096375