February 4, 2008

British Film Crew Gets Rare Footage of “˜Waving’ Frog

A British film crew has captured footage of a rare Panamanian golden frog waving, wrestling and courting for the first time.

The golden frog, known as Atelopus Zeteki, communicates with other frogs by semaphore in the form of gentle hand waves. Scientists believe the mechanism evolved as a way to allow the frogs to signal to rivals and mates above the noise of mountain streams.

Hilary Jeffkins, senior producer of the BBC One series Life In Cold Blood, said the semaphoring behavior of the Panamanian golden frog was very unusual.

"Normally, frogs would croak to get their message across but it's too noisy," she told BBC News. "An extra mechanism they've evolved is to wave to each other."

The footage of the frog waving, wrestling and courting can be viewed here.

The frogs were filmed at a remote location in the Panamanian rainforest. The population had almost disappeared as a result of a fungus that grows on the their skin and suffocates them. The film crew was disinfected to prevent them from carrying the fungus, and the crew was able to capture rare footage of the frogs in their natural environment.

The local population in Panama believes the frogs turn to solid gold after they die, and consider a sighting of the frog a sign of good luck. However, the golden frogs are highly toxic.

Shortly after filming was completed in June 2006, chytrid fungus overtook the location and the frogs had to be rescued and kept in captivity.

"The whole species is now extinct in Panama, this was one of the last remaining populations. Its final wave was in our program," Jeffkins added.

Chytrid fungus, known as Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, is a principal contributor to the decline of amphibian populations around the world, and threatening many species with extinction.


On the Net:

Wikipedia - Panamanian Golden Frog

Photo by Jeff Kubina