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article imageStudy highlights importance of bats for rare frog, other species

By Megan Hamilton     Oct 23, 2015 in Environment
Knoxville - A tiny and rare species of frog living in remote, hidden caves in the heavily forested mountains near Russia and Georgia depends on bats for its survival, according to a recent study.
The scientists discovered that the Caucasian parsley frogs — so named because the bright green flecks on their skin resemble parsley — showed an obvious preference for living in caves with bat colonies, and that's likely because insects breed in bat poop, also called guano, NDTV reports.
This is one of many studies highlighting the critical importance of bats in the environment, said Vladimir Dinets, an author of the study and a research assistant professor of psychology at the University of Tennesee in Knoxville.
"Their role is not limited to controlling agricultural pests; entire cave ecosystems with dozens of species depend on bats for survival, and many of these species are yet to be discovered," he said.
Bat populations in eastern North America are being wiped out by human-introduced white-nose syndrome, and this disaster will likely cause huge numbers of extinctions and trigger widespread ecosystem destabilization, Dinets noted. While white-nose syndrome is Eurasian in origin, it's only a problem in North America because bats there aren't adapted to it, reports.
"The study shows the importance of protecting even small bat colonies," he said, adding that the Caucasian parsley frog (Pelodytes caucasicus) is of conservation concern. Attempts have been made to breed the tiny amphibian in captivity.
It is considered "Near Threatened" by the IUCN Red List of Endangered Species.
Dinets said that knowing about what habitat the frog prefers is important for protecting that habitat and for future reintroduction efforts.
Until the study, everything that was known about these tiny frogs' natural history came from studies in breeding pools where they gather during the spring, Business Standard reports.
Dinets discovered that during the summer, most of the frogs shelter in limestone caves, though some probably go out for a wander at night.
The study appeared in the Herpetological Bulletin, a scientific publication devoted to the study of herpetology, amphibians, and reptiles.
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