Newly discovered Sri Lankan frog species

This is a video about Wilpattu National Park in Sri Lanka, with leopard etc.

From the Harvard University Gazette in the USA:

Fellow’s focus is foggy, froggy forest

Sri Lanka frog radiation provides food for thought

By Alvin Powell

Harvard News Office

In the dark of the Sri Lankan cloud forest, the researchers’ only guide was the headlamps they used to light up the night, illuminating the cold, gray mist that drifted through the trees.

They looked carefully as they walked among the trunks, the beams from their headlamps casting left and right, up and down. They examined rocks and branches, leaf litter and shrubs, tree trunks, and leaves high in the canopy. By and by, they found one, then another — small tree frogs that froze in the light and went suddenly silent.

The frogs are a bit of living scientific gold. With amphibians declining around the world in what experts fear is a mass extinction crisis, these recently discovered tree frogs are strangely abundant and incredibly varied, an overlooked yet amazing display of biological diversity in a part of the world where British and Sri Lankan naturalists had worked for a century.

For the next two years, Sri Lankan biologist Madhava Meegaskumbura will be working at the Harvard University Center for the Environment to understand more about these frogs, studying how they evolved, why they go extinct, and how to prevent that fate for those that still exist.

“Sri Lanka is on the front lines of the global biodiversity crisis,” said Alexander Agassiz Professor of Zoology and Museum of Comparative Zoology Director James Hanken, with whom Meegaskumbura is working. “It is among the hottest of global biodiversity hotspots, even though less than 5 percent of original forest cover remains. This is true for the island’s amphibians, and especially tree frogs, which have undergone a unique and explosive adaptive radiation numbering hundreds of species.”

Meegaskumbura, a Ziff Environmental Fellow at the Center for the Environment, is planning a trip back to Sri Lanka in December to further his work in the field, which has already astonished amphibian experts around the world.

In 2002, Meegaskumbura, together with other Sri Lankan scientists and researchers from Boston University, told the world what they found: as many as 100 new species of tree frogs in the high cloud forests and lowland rainforests of Sri Lanka. The new frog species, most belonging to the genus Philautus, were found in remnant forests in a part of the island nation that had been largely deforested by British colonial planters to make room for plantations of tea, rubber, and cinchona, a tree whose bark is used to make the malaria treatment quinine.

“I was just completely blown away,” said Boston University associate professor of biology and herpetologist Christopher Schneider. “I was completely stunned by the finding. It was clear that there was this enormous radiation of frogs in Sri Lanka that nobody had recognized. … I don’t know when the last such discovery was made.”

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