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article imageCosta Rica: Researcher discovers new species of glass frog

By Megan Hamilton     Apr 21, 2015 in Environment
Heredia - Costa Rica is a tiny country that often seems cut off from the rest of the world, but sometimes it shares gifts with us, and when it does, they are amazing.
Case in point: The recent discovery of a new species of glass frog, a living green jewel.
The little frog, which has translucent skin on its belly, was tucked inside the dense forests of Costa Rica's Talamanca mountain range, and it managed to avoid detection, even though scientists have been conducting fieldwork in the area for over a century.
Then it was discovered by Brian Kubicki, who published the results of his find in the journal Zootaxa. Herpetologists found six of the little frogs, and knew that these were clearly different due to the coloring and texture of their skin and because of the distinctive nature of their calls, The Telegraph reports.
Kubicki named the bright green frog Hyalinobatrachium dianae after his mom, Janet Diana Kubicki, and the Roman hunting goddess, Diana. It's the first glass frog discovered in Costa Rica since 1973, The Tico Times reports.
This lime green glass frog was found in the western provinces of Límon and Heredia, and it's about 2.5 centimeters long, with bright black and white eyes, and graceful feet that are long and thin.
What is a glass frog?
In Central and South America, there are 149 known species of glass frogs, and 14 of them can be found in Costa Rica, The Daily Mail reports.
Glass frogs are intriguing little amphibians that are bright green, except for their abdominal skin, which is translucent. The skin is often clear enough that the animal's heart, liver, and gastrointestinal tract can be seen. The first of these little frogs (all are less than 7.5 cm, or three inches) was discovered in 1872. They bear a resemblance to tree frogs, and like tree frogs, they are arboreal, meaning that they live in trees. They can also be found along rivers and streams during the breeding season. However, unlike tree frogs, whose eyes face sideways, the eyes of glass frogs face forward.
You can definitely see this little creature s organs.
You can definitely see this little creature's organs.
YouTube screen grab
What sets H. dianae apart from other glass frogs is its strange and notable call, which distinguishes it as a separate species, The Tico Times reports.
"It's advertisement call is quite unique," Kubicki, the paper's lead author said. "It's different than any other species that has been discovered."
The males use these calls to attract females for mating. Rather than uttering calls similar to other glass frog's H. dianae issues a long metallic whistle denoted by rapid pulses.
Its call is similar to an insect's call, and Kubicki says this may be why it remained unknown to herpetologists for such a long time. Scientists also identified genetic and morphological difference in H. dianae as compared to other glass frogs.
Another likely undiscovered is because the Talamanca mountain range isn't quite as well-studied as other regions in this tiny country.
"Costa Rica is a very well-studied area by herpetologists so this discovery was surprising," Kubicki said. "We just needed some fieldwork in these areas that were poorly explored."
The discovery of H. dianae is a good indication that the ecosystem it lives in is healthy, Kubicki said, per The Telegraph.
Herpetologists don't really know what the reason is for the glass frog's translucent appearance, but there's the possibility that this translucence helps keep them camouflaged, The Tico Times reports.
Mating for these little frogs usually takes place after the rainy season, or during times of light showers. The female lays around 20 to 30 eggs on the undersides of leaves that hang above the water, Soft Schools reports. Then it's the male frog's turn to provide parental care, and he keeps the eggs safe from predatory insects and parasites. After about two weeks, the tiny tadpoles hatch and drop into the water. Interestingly, some species of glass frogs will bury themselves in the ground until they mature into an adult. Others metamorphose into adults in the water.
Glass frogs are carnivorous and prefer to eat soft-bodied insects and different kinds of spiders, and they have excellent eyesight for this purpose, but they must also watch out for predators, especially snakes, mammals, and birds, Soft Schools reports. Those who successfully manage to do this can live for as long as 14 years in the wild.
Truly, these tiny frogs are green jewels.
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