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Brit scientists seek rare frogs in Costa Rica

September 12, 2008

What makes a herpetologist hoot for joy in the humid night high in the cloud forest of Monteverde?

The discovery of a female Isthmohyla rivularis, one of the rarest tree frogs in the world.

“This is probably the first female that has been found in 20 years,” beamed Andrew Gray, a British scientist who this week wrapped up a visit to Costa Rica.

Poking around in the damp brush, playing a recorded frog call on a CD player, the scientists this week also managed to find a male Duellmanohyla uranochroa, or red-eyed stream frog.

“This is one of the most critically endangered frogs in the world,” Gray said to a BBC photographer as the tiny amphibian perched on his hand.

Gray and his team, hailing from the University of Manchester and the Chester Zoological Society, have been in mountains northwest of San José at the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve looking into whether increased cloud cover caused by climate change is threatening the tree frogs.

The scientists believe the tiny amphibians are able to kill off a deadly fungus by lounging under the sun. Other species of frogs avoid the sun.

“In places like Monteverde, the temperature has changed drastically over the last couple of years. Lowlands are getting warmer and so the clouds are thicker in the highlands,” Gray told The Tico Times last week in a phone interview before heading to Monteverde.

“(With increased cloud cover), the frogs can´t bask. They´re cold blooded and need to heat up, and also use sunlight to clear themselves of things like these funguses that live at damp, low temperatures,” Gray said

See the latest Tico Times print or pdf edition for more on this story.

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