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Laos – a lost world for frogs


Latest study documents sixth species found in two-year period

Frogs and lots of them are being discovered in the Southeast Asia nation of Lao PDR, according to the Bronx Zoo-based Wildlife Conservation Society, which says that six new frog species have been found by scientists over a two-year period.

Working in conjunction with the WCS Laos Program, scientists describe the latest three species in the recent issue of Copeia, the journal of the American Society of Herpetologists and Ichthyologists. Little is known about the new frogs, other than where they live and how they differ morphologically from other similar species.

"Now that these species have been documented we can go back and start to learn something about their biology," said Bryan Stuart of the Field Museum, a co-author of the study.

The American Museum of Natural History and Russian Academy of Sciences also collaborated on the new study.

Lao PDR, the least densely populated country in Asia, has produced a treasure trove of wildlife discoveries in recent years, from the Laotian rock rat, which is the lone living member of an ancient mammal family, to the Annamite striped rabbit and saola, a type of forest antelope. Nine amphibians have been discovered by Stuart and his collaborators since 2002.

"Certainly much more remains to be found in Laos," said Stuart.

With a high level of biodiversity, Lao PDR has some of the most significant forest areas remaining in Southeast Asia. However, the combined loss of forest cover (estimated at nearly 55 percent) and over-exploitation of many species threatens much of Laos’s wildlife.

Already, a newly described salamander species found by Stuart in Laos has turned up earlier this year in the Japanese pet trade, where it is commanding a high commercial price. This species is currently known only from two, nearby localities in northern Laos. Conservationists are eager to begin surveys of this species to document the extent of its range and habitat requirements, in order to get it protected by the Lao government before it becomes threatened by overexploitation.

Stephen Sautner | EurekAlert!
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