March 5, 2008

Threatened Frog Species Breeding in New Zealand

The recent spotting of a rare species of frog breeding in New Zealand may lead to a better future for the endangered amphibian.

Researchers reported on Monday that they found 13 finger nail-sized Maud Island froglets on the backs of adult male frogs at the Karori Wildlife Sanctuary in Wellington.

An estimated 40,000 Maud Island Frogs are assumed to exist. The species is known to primarily reside on Maud Island in the Marlborough Sounds and on Motuara Island.

"Maud Island frogs have never been found breeding" before said researcher Kerri Lukis, a masters degree student at Victoria University in Wellington. "It's wonderful timing for 2008 - International Year of the Frog and a Leap Year."

Ben Bell, a biologist who has been overseeing Lukis' research said that the new findings could make it easier for the species to be bred in other predator-free habitats.

The Karori Wildlife Sanctuary is guarded by a fence that provides the frogs with a 620-acre safe zone for breeding. Researchers released 60 Maud Island frogs into the sanctuary in 2006.

What is peculiar about the species is how little it has evolved over the past 70 million years. Unlike other frogs, the Maud Island Frog does not croak, live in water or have webbed feet. Also, the species lays eggs rather than going through the tadpole stage.

All four of New Zealand's native frog species are currently threatened. The rarest is known as Hamilton's frog and less than 300 are known to exist.