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Tree Frog Once Thought Lost Is Found

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A tiny tree frog not seen for twenty years and thought to be extinct has been spotted in Costa Rica’s Monteverde Cloud Forest Preserve.

Scientists from the University of Manchester and Chester Zoo in the United Kingdom saw and photographed a male specimen of the frog Isthmohyla rivularis last year. A search of the same area this year turned up a pregnant female and more males, suggesting that the species is breeding.

Photo courtesy Mark Dickinson, University of Manchester

“This has been the highlight of the whole of my career,” said Andrew Gray from Manchester Museum at the University of Manchester. He was speaking to BBC Online, which is accompanying the expedition in Costa Rica.

“The only time you ever come across a female is by chance–and it is only once in a blue moon that they come down to lay their eggs. You really have to be in the right place at the right time,” Gray said in a university press release.

The inch-long female was released after a swab was taken from its skin to test whether it is carrying the chytrid fungus. The frog-killing fungus is spreading rapidly through Central and South America. Some scientists think that global warming will exacerbate the situation.

Physicist Mark Dickinson from The Photon Science Institute at the university has been using a portable spectrometer to examine the skin of tree frogs in Costa Rica. The scientist is studying how much light frogs reflect. There is a theory that if frogs sit in the sun their skins may heat up enough to kill the chytrid fungus.

Related entry: Researcher Licks Poison Frogs in Pursuit of Science