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Preserved species

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Preserved Species: Dr Arthur White reports on the rediscovery of a frog in an Indian rainforest, one which has carved out a very un-frog like niche. Only two specimens of the frog were known (from 1870s) preserved in jars in London’s Natural History Museum and the species was presumed extinct.

That changed recently when Indian frog biologist Sathyabhama das Biju in the Darjeeling area doing frog survey work in a rainforest which had been burnt to make way for palm oil plantations. Hearing unfamiliar frog calls from high up in the canopy, he dislodged frogs of an unknown species.

Ultimately they were identified as living examples of the 1870s species.

Biju spent two and a half years observing these frogs in the wild. The frogs rarely come to ground. The females spawn in multiple tiny hollows in the side of trees, each hollow having some water from the rainforest rains. When the tadpoles hatch they initially survive off the yolk from the egg. When that is gone the mother revisits the hollows and squirts out unfertilised eggs as food. The tadpoles feed on this until they are large enough to metamorphose, a great example of parental care in frogs.

In a happy ending the area where the frogs were found has now been declared a nature reserve. This frog, first preserved in glass, is now hopefully a preserved species.

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