A new species has been discovered near the headwaters of the Rio Cano in Panama. A bright orange poison dart frog with a unique call was discovered in Donoso by the researchers from the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, the Universidad Autónoma de Chiriquí in Panama, and the Universidad de los Andes in Colombia.
The poison dart frog is small enough to fit on a fingernail as it measures only half an inch but still contains the toxic poison from which the frogs’ name has been derived.
Poison dart frogs are a threatened species and basically found in Central and South America and are the source of mysterious poisons that hunters use to make blowdarts.
The species, which has been named “Andinobates geminisae,” for Geminis Vargas, “the beloved wife of [coauthor] Marcos Ponce, for her unconditional support of his studies of Panamanian herpetology” belongs to a group called “A. minutus,” which can be distinguished by its unique call and smooth, bright,orange-colored skin.
“The new species superficially looks much more like the strawberry poison dart frog (Oophaga pumilio),” said study co-author Andrew Crawford, a professor of evolutionary genetics and biostatistics at the Colombian university, former STRI postdoctoral fellow.
“Perhaps A. geminisae had been observed previously but was confused with Oophaga.”
The study was published in the journal Zootaxa this week.
The specimen for this species was collected Feb. 21, 2011, by Samuel Valdés, who was at that time MWH Global Inc. environment office director, and his field assistant, Carlos de la Cruz. Biologists Marcos Ponce and Abel Batista, then a student at the Universidad Autónoma de Chiriquí collected the additional specimens between the Rio Coclé del Norte and the Rio Belen.
They deposited the specimens in the Museo de Vertebrados at the University of Panama, the Museo Herpetólogico de Chiriquí at the Universidad Autónoma de Chiriquí and in the Círculo Herpetólogico de Panamá.
The DNA was sequenced by Crawford who confirmed this species as a new species of Andinobates. Genetic information regarding the species can be availed in the Barcode of Life Data System and in GenBank. A recording of the call is available at AmphibiaWeb.org.
Authors warned the species to be at risk from deforestation as well as pet trade collectors.
The researchers recommend that the conservations plans should be outlined in order to guarantee its survival, especially as the cytrid fungal disease effects the amphibians.