Bird-Eating Fanged Frog Found in Greater Mekong
|The Khorat big-mouthed frog (Limnonectes megastomias) has only been found in three isolated and remote locations in a protected area in Thailand. The frog’s fangs protrude from its bottom jawbone and it is an opportunistic eater, lying and waiting for prey in streams. Courtesy of David S McLeod \ WWF Greater Mekong|
A bird-eating fanged frog, a gecko that looks like it’s from another planet and a bird that would rather walk than fly are among 163 new species discovered in the jungles and rivers of the Greater Mekong region of Thailand last year.
Close Encounters, a new report launched by World Wildlife Fund (WWF) ahead of UN climate talks in Bangkok, spotlights species newly identified by science including 100 plants, 28 fish, 18 reptiles, 14 amphibians, two mammals and a bird, all discovered in 2008 within the Greater Mekong region of Southeast Asia that spans Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam and the south-western Chinese province of Yunnan.
The new frog species, Limnonectes megastomias, is an opportunistic eater, lying in wait for its prey in streams. The species has a diverse diet which includes other frogs, insects and even birds. It has a greatly enlarged head and fangs that are actually growths that protrude from the jawbone.
Males of the species use their fangs in combat, and scientists have observed frogs with missing limbs and multiple scars. Unlike many other species of frogs, the males are bigger than the females. The males also have exceptionally large mouths and powerful jaws.
The reluctant flyer, Nonggang Babbler, (Stachyris nonggangensis) was discovered in the karst rainforest of the Nonggang Natural Reserve, located in south Guangxi province of China near the Vietnamese border. It was observed walking longer distances than flying, and would only use its wings when frightened.
“These species have been in hiding for millennia and it’s finally their turn in the spotlight,” said Dekila Chungyalpa, Director of WWF’s Greater Mekong Program. “Clearly there are many more incredible species to discover, which is why we should do everything possible to protect their habitats.”
The species were discovered by numerous scientists, including a mother-son team who made an important discovery of a tiger-striped pitviper by accident. “We were engrossed in trying to catch a new species of gecko when my son pointed out that my hand was on a rock mere inches away from the head of a pitviper,” said Lee Grismer of La Sierra University in California. “We caught the snake and the gecko and they both proved to be new species.”
But no sooner are these new species discovered than their survival is threatened by the devastating impacts of climate change, the report warns. Recent studies show the climate of the Greater Mekong region is
Scientists state that there is much that remains unknown about Limnonectes megastomias and other closely related frogs in terms of their natural history, reproductive biology, and other aspects of their ecology.
Courtesy of David S McLeod \ WWF Greater Mekong
already changing. Models suggest continued warming, increased variability and more frequent and damaging extreme climate events.
Rising seas and saltwater intrusion will cause major coastal impacts especially in the Mekong River delta, which is one of the three most vulnerable deltas on Earth, according to the most recent International Panel on Climate Change report.
“Some of these new species may be able to adapt to climate change but many will not, which could result in massive extinctions,” Chungyalpa said. “Their habitats are already restricted and climate change will further shrink the areas in which they live.”
Often, these newly discovered species are highly dependent on a limited number of species for their survival. If they respond to climate change in a way that disrupts this closely evolved relationship it puts them at greater risk of extinction.
This fall, government delegates will meet in Bangkok, Thailand, for the next round of UN climate change talks in the lead up to the Copenhagen Climate Summit this December, where the world is scheduled to agree on a new global climate treaty.