Sunday, June 21, 2009

"Glass" Frog Discovered in Ecuador

On their recent trip to the mountainous rain forests of Nangaritza, Ecuador, scientists from Conservation International’s Rapid Assessment Program (RAP) discovered seven new insects, a new lizard, and four more amphibians. Vice President of CI’s RAP group, Leeanne Alonso, said, “the species that we discovered on this expedition are fascinating and make clear how biologically important this area is – not only because of the wealth of plants and animals that inhabit it but also because of the service that it provides to local people, like clean water and the opportunities for income from ecotourism. It is crucial that it is protected properly.”

Along with the new species the scientists discovered, RAP also found a Nymphagus Chancas, a glass or crystal frog for the first time in Ecuador. The species have been recorded previously in northeastern Peru.

The Nymphagus Chancas is named for its translucent skin, which allows scientists to examine the frog’s internal organs. They are classified by their lack of webbing on their outer fingers, their lack of humeral spines in adult males, and their lobbed livers. Their natural habitats are subtropical or tropical montane rivers and forests.

According to Conservation International, the number of amphibians is in serious decline due to the global climate change, infectious diseases, and loss of habitat from deforestation and logging. CI endorses the introduction of amphibian habitats where these populations can live without the threat of deforestation. Conservation International also plans to use captive breeding programs to save amphibians from the threat of disease.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Giant Jellyfish Plaguing the World's Oceans

Giant jellyfish like this one are taking over parts of the world's oceans as overfishing and other human activities open windows of opportunity for them to prosper, say researchers.

In this photo, a diver is attaching a sensor to track a monster Echizen jellyfish, which has a body almost 5 feet across, off the coast of northern Japan.

Jellyfish are normally kept in check by fish, which eat small jellyfish and compete for jellyfish food such as zooplankton, researchers said. But, with overfishing, jellyfish numbers are increasing.

These huge creatures can burst through fishing nets, as well as destroy local fisheries with their taste for fish eggs and larvae.

Anthony Richardson of CSIRO Marine & Atmospheric Research and colleagues reported their findings in the journal Trends in Ecology and Evolution to coincide with World Oceans Day.

They say climate change could also cause jellyfish populations to grow. The team believes that for the first time, water conditions could lead to what they call a "jellyfish stable state," in which jellyfish rule the oceans.

The combination of overfishing and high levels of nutrients in the water has been linked to jellyfish blooms. Nitrogen and phosphorous in run-off cause red phytoplankton blooms, which create low-oxygen dead zones where jellyfish survive, but fish can't, researchers said.

"(There is) a jellyfish called Nomura, which is the biggest jellyfish in the world. It can weigh 200 kilograms (440 pounds), as big as a sumo wrestler and is 2 meters (6.5 feet) in diameter," Richardson said.

Richardson said jellyfish numbers are increasing in Southeast Asia, the Black Sea, the Gulf of Mexico and the North Sea.