May 6, 2009

Researchers In Madagascar Discover Over 200 New Frog Species

Scientists in Madagascar have discovered more than 200 new species of frogs, but a political crisis is hurting conservation of the Indian Ocean island's unique wildlife, Reuters reported.

Researchers said the recent discovery almost doubles the number of known amphibians in Madagascar and suggests conservationists have over-estimated the natural riches that have helped spawn a $390-million-a-year tourism industry.

But newer gains in conservation have been compromised after months of instability, culminating in a change of government after massive street protests.

David Vieites, researcher at the Spanish National Natural Sciences Museum, said the recent political instability has led to the cutting of the forest within national parks, generating a lot of uncertainty about the future of the planned network of protected areas.

Madagascar, a biodiversity hotspot, is the world's fourth-largest island and is well known for exotic inhabitants like the ring-tailed lemur and poisonous frogs.

Scientists believe all but one of the 217 previously known species of amphibian are believed to be native, yet over 80 percent of the mammals in Madagascar are found nowhere else in the world.

Miguel Vences, a team member and professor at the Technical University of Braunschweig, said people only think researchers have recorded every plant and animal species that live on the planet, but the centuries of discoveries have only just begun.

"The majority of life forms on Earth is still awaiting scientific recognition," he added.

Some 80 percent of Madagascar's rain forest has been destroyed by human demands on the land and decades of rampant logging.

He said hundreds of species are being threatened by such human activities.

The study suggests the find of between 129 and 221 new species of frogs could double the number of amphibians globally if the results are extrapolated worldwide.

The research, published in the May issue of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, was carried out by the Spanish Scientific Research Council (CSIC).

The study stated that almost a quarter of the new species discovered have not yet been found in unprotected areas.

Madagascar's flora and fauna was left to develop in isolation after the area broke away from Africa almost 160 million years ago.


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