Frog Research in Costa Rica Fascinates the World
Frog research in Costa Rica made the world news two years ago when a group of scientists discovered a new species of glass frog in the Caribbean foothills.
That newest species is the Diane’s bare-hearted glass frog (Hyalinobatrachium dianae) identified by scientists led by Dr. Brian Kubicki of the Costa Rican Amphibian Research Center. The discovery was especially popular in social media since the small, lime green amphibian looks just like Kermit the Frog.
Biologists at Veragua Rainforest Eco-Adventure Park in Costa Rica’s Caribbean coastal mountains are studying several species of glass frogs.
“Frogs are a fascinating animal with which to study evolution and there are so many different characteristics to study about them,” said Wagner Chaves-Acuña, a biologist from the University of Costa Rica working with the scientific research team at Veragua Rainforest.
In addition to fascinating biodiversity characteristics, frogs are considered by scientists to be the key warning signal for serious climate change on the planet.
“The principle group that measures any climate change is the amphibians, because they absorb any chemicals by their skin and rain cycles affect frogs’ reproductive cycles. If it does not rain like it should, they don’t reproduce,” said Costa Rican biologist José Salazar Zúñiga, Research Coordinator for the Veragua Foundation for Rainforest Research in Costa Rica.
Glass frogs (family Centrolenidae) are only found in the Americas in the Neotropics. Their name comes from their transparent skin on their underbellies, which makes internal organs visible as if they were made of glass.
Out of 153 species of glass frogs throughout the Neotropics, 14 so far are found in Costa Rica, with a little over 70% living in Veragua Rainforest (10 species). Veragua Rainforest and the Caribbean region have the highest biodiversity of frogs in Costa Rica, according to Jose Salazar, who said his team has recorded 54 distinct species there.
Unique and delicate glass frogs can be found along the vegetation surrounding streams, where the calls of different species can be heard at night.
One of the interesting studies in frog research in Costa Rica being conducted by Veragua’s team focuses on the reproductive ecology of the Talamancan glass frog (Hyalinobatrachium talamancae), a rare species that can be found at Veragua. Wagner Chaves has investigated the interesting rituals of parental care by male Talamancan glass frogs of the eggs laid by the females, and also their bioacoustical rituals.
In contrast to other species that sporadically protect their egg masses only during nighttime, the Talamancan glass frog presents paternal care both day and night to ensure their survival.
Additionally, the male glass frogs sing from under plant leaves to attract females, which then deposit their eggs under the leaves. However, under the leaves, the eggs are in risk of dehydration since moisture-giving rain drops don’t reach them. In order to solve this problem, males position themselves on top of the mass of eggs. Chaves said when the males directly touch the egg mass, they excrete fluids over the jelly matrix surrounding the eggs to keep them hydrated.
“What is interesting is the evolution of glass frogs to care for their offspring. That the males take care to ensure the eggs have the right conditions to produce future frogs,” noted Chaves.
Scientific projects at Veragua Rainforest complement conservation strategies to protect Costa Rica’s rainforests.
One of the best things to do in Costa Rica is the one day tour at Veragua Rainforest Eco-Adventure Park, where you can see and experience rainforest life in person and enjoy exciting adventure tours.
Article by Shannon Farley