Genetic matchmaking saves endangered frogs

Jan 08, 2013
The casque headed tree frog (Hemiphractidae: Hemiphractus fasciatus), is one of 11 species of highest conservation concern now being bred in captivity in Panama. Females carry eggs on their backs where the young complete development hatching out as miniature frogs. DNA barcoding data suggest that populations of H. fasciatus may comprise more than one taxonomic group. Credit: Edgardo Griffith

What if Noah got it wrong? What if he paired a male and a female animal thinking they were the same species, and then discovered they were not the same and could not produce offspring? As researchers from the Smithsonian's Panama Amphibian Rescue and Conservation Project race to save frogs from a devastating disease by breeding them in captivity, a genetic test averts mating mix-ups.

At the El Valle Amphibian Conservation Center, project scientists breed 11 different species of highland frogs threatened by the Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, which has already decimated amphibian populations worldwide. They hope that someday they will be able to re-release frogs into Panama's highland streams.

Different may look very similar. "If we accidentally choose frogs to breed that are not the same species, we may be unsuccessful or unknowingly create hybrid animals that are maladapted to their parents' native environment," said Andrew J. Crawford, research associate at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama and professor at Colombia's Universidad de los Andes. Crawford and his colleagues make use of a genetic technique called to tell amphibian species apart. By comparing in a frog's skin cells sampled with a cotton swab, they discover how closely the frogs are related.

New knowledge about frog genetics contributes to saving amphibians from extinction, the mission of the Panama Amphibian Rescue and Conservation Project. Participating institutions include Africam Safari, Panama's Autoridad Nacional del Ambiente, Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, Defenders of Wildlife, El Valle Amphibian Conservation Center, Houston Zoo, Smithsonian's National Zoological Park, the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute and Zoo New England.

Explore further: Scientists discover new 'transformer frog' in Ecuador

More information: Crawford, A.J., Cruz, C., Griffith, E., Ross, H., Ibanez, R., Lips, K., Driskell, A.C., Bermingham, E. and Crump, P. 2013. DNA barcoding applied to ex situ tropical amphibian conservation programme reveals cryptic diversity in captive populations. Molecular Ecology Resources. doi: 10.1111/1755-0998.12054

Related Stories

Catching a killer one spore at a time

Oct 19, 2009

A workshop at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama has dramatically improved the ability of conservationists and regulatory agencies to monitor the spread of chytridiomycosis—one of the ...

Recommended for you

Scientists discover new 'transformer frog' in Ecuador

13 hours ago

It doesn't turn into Prince Charming, but a new species of frog discovered in Ecuador has earned the nickname "transformer frog" for its ability to change its skin from spiny to smooth in five minutes.

US gives threatened status to northern long-eared bat

15 hours ago

The federal government said Wednesday that it is listing the northern long-eared bat as threatened, giving new protections to a species that has been nearly wiped out in some areas by the spread of a fungal ...

Mice sing like songbirds to woo mates

16 hours ago

Male mice sing surprisingly complex songs to seduce females, sort of like songbirds, according to a new Duke study appearing April 1 in the Frontiers of Behavioral Neuroscience.

A new crustacean species found in Galicia

17 hours ago

One reason that tourists are attracted to Galicia is for its food. The town of O Grove (Pontevedra) is well known for its Seafood Festival and the Spider Crab Festival. A group of researchers from the University ...

Ants in space find it tougher going than those on Earth

18 hours ago

(Phys.org)—The results of a study conducted to see how well ants carry out their search activities in space are in, and the team that sent them there has written and published the results in the journal ...

Rats found able to recognize pain in other rat faces

18 hours ago

(Phys.org)—A team of researchers working in Japan with affiliations to several institutions in that country, has found that lab rats are able to recognize pain in the faces of other rats and avoid them ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.