The Surprise Reappearance of a Rare Frog Has Scientists Leaping to Protect Its Habitat

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The word “marsupial” usually evokes a kangaroo or koala, a young, warm-blooded creature that protects its young in a pouch. But a surprising variety of creatures, including crustaceans, seahorses and frogs, have developed this unusual form of parental care.

The horned marsupial frog, whose jaunty spikes protrude from its eyelids to help it look like a dry leaf, is “a fascinating creature that people can’t wrap their heads around,” says James Muckmore, the book’s founder. Save the ChocóA conservation group formed to protect this endangered Ecuadorian rainforest. Rather than laying thousands of eggs in the water like most frogs, female horned marsupial frogs produce only ten or fewer of the world’s largest amphibian eggs, about a centimeter in diameter. Males then incubate these eggs and deposit them in a pouch on the mother’s back, giving the species, and dozens of related frogs, the “marsupial” moniker. As the embryos develop, they develop a structure similar to that of mammals, where their mother provides them with oxygen, water, and possibly nutrients. After about two months, the horned marsupial eggs hatch into forest-ready frogs, jumping the tadpole stage. This remarkable adaptation frees them from searching pools or streams for spawning. They spend their lives in the rainforest trees of Central and South America, where the humid air is thought to keep their skin from drying out.

Since the second half of the 20th century, however, these forests have been destroyed by deforestation and plantations, a threat exacerbated in the 1990s by the global panzootic (non-human epidemic) caused by the chytrid fungus. For decades, the horned marsupial frog, which once ranged from Costa Rica south to Ecuador, survived as an endangered population in Panama and parts of Colombia, while it was feared extinct in both countries.

But Costa Rican herpetologist Stanley Salazar has searched the jungle to find remote areas similar to the still-known habitats of the Panamanian frog. In the year One night in 2013, he said, “I heard the frog call I’d been waiting to hear for the past three years — like a cork popping out of a bottle. He cut a path to the call with a machete, then turned off the flashlight. “He was in front of me when he sang,” he says. “I turned on the light and saw him. I was incredibly happy at that moment.

Then, in Ecuador, in In 2018, researchers from the non-profit group headed to a small study of the Choco region, which was barely left after the disaster. Jokotoko Foundation Collaborated with Muchmore to purchase land threatened by mining. They returned with good news: they had seen and heard horned marsupial frogs. “It’s a lot of noise for this little animal,” said Muchmore, who later visited the area. “You can hear them all over the forest.”

The frog’s rediscovery confirms the importance of protecting remote and vulnerable areas, said Jokotoko CEO Martin Schaefer. “Hope is something we can all create through our actions,” he says.

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