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Extraordinary 200 new species of frogs identified in Madagascar

06/05/2009 10:06:12

Newly discovered in Mdagascar:- Boophis aff elenae (Foto: Miguel Vences)

May 2009. A study undertaken by the Spanish Scientific Research Council (CSIC) has identified between 129 and 221 new species of frogs from Madagascar, which practically doubles the currently known amphibian fauna. This study suggests that the number of amphibian species in Madagascar, one of the world's biodiversity hotspots, has been vastly underestimated.

As Professor David R. Vieites, CSIC researcher at the Spanish National Natural Sciences Museum in Madrid, states: "the diversity of species in Madagascar is far from being known and there is still a lot of scientific research to be done. Our data suggest that the number of new species of amphibians is not only hugely underestimated but it is much more geographically widespread than previously thought, even in well studied areas. For example, two of the most visited and studied National parks, Ranomafana and Mantadía/Analamazaotra, harboured 31 and 10 new species respectively".

Boophis ulftunni (Foto: Franco Andreone)

Boophis ulftunni (Foto: Franco Andreone)

Dr. Frank Glaw, curator of herpetology at the Zoologische Staatssammlung from Munich explains:" During the past 15 years, we discovered and described over 100 new frog species from Madagascar, which led us to believe that our species inventory was almost complete. But this new surveys shows that there are many more species than we suspected".

Other species may have similar discoveries awaiting
The paper suggests that the total biodiversity of Madagascar could be much richer in other groups as well, so the destruction of natural habitats may be affecting many more species than previously thought. This is important for conservation planning, as the rate of destruction of rainforests in Madagascar has been one of the highest in the world, with more than 80% of the historic rainforest already lost.

Logging and political uncertainty
"Although a lot of reserves and national parks have been created in Madagascar during the last decade, the actual situation of politic instability is allowing the logging of forests within national parks, generating a lot of uncertainty about the future of the planned network of protected areas", explains Vieites. Almost a quarter of the new species discovered have not been found yet in protected areas.

Boophis aff miniatus Ranomafanakely (Photo: Miguel Vences)

Boophis aff miniatus Ranomafanakely (Photo: Miguel Vences)

High degree of endemism
Madagascar is the fourth largest island in the world and one of the most biodiverse areas globally, with a high degree of endemic species. "To get an idea of its biodiversity, in the Iberian Peninsula are about 30 species of amphibians and in Germany about 20, in a single locality in Madagascar we can find some 100 species of frogs", explains Vieites.

Dr. Miguel Vences, professor at the Technical University of Braunschweig adds: "People think that we know which plant and animal species live on this planet. But the century of discoveries has only just begun - the majority of life forms on Earth is still awaiting scientific recognition".

Researchers from the Technical University of Braunschweig, Museo regionale di Scienze Naturali from Torino, and the Hessisches Landesmuseum from Darmstadt also took part in this study.

The study was published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA.

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