About three weeks ago Mongabay reported on the discovery of a new species of golden frog, Diasporus citrinobapheus, with a title that could not be surpassed by me: “New frog species leaves scientists’ fingers yellow”. They are referring to the discovery by Hertz and three other German based researchers that was published in ZooKeys. This new species of golden frog is a very beautifully yellow-coloured addition to the catalogue of wonderful frog species that are known to science. Just as the rediscovery of the Bornean rainbow toad and the tiny frogs Paedophryne amauensis and Paedophryne swiftorum I reported earlier on, it is an impressive testimony of the diversity and beauty of frogs. Diasporus citrinobapheus
This species was found in the Cordillera Central of western Panama; as Hertz et al. show this is not a mere coincidence because in the last years many new species have been described in this country. Especially for the genus Diasporus it is thought that more species await discovery because within the genus there appears to be a large amount of differences in body size, male advertisement call, and coloration. It is a widespread genus with a distribution ranging from eastern Honduras to western Ecuador and one of the characteristics is that in reproduction they skip the tadpole stage and instead juveniles are born directly from eggs as tiny froglets. The genus forms part of the large Microhylidae family, also known as narrow-mouthed frogs.
The newly found species occupies both the Pacific and Caribbean slopes of the eastern Serrania de Tebasará and was found at elevations from 680 to 790 meters above sea level. It is not surprising that they were only so recently discovered because they live in dense vegetation and are fully grown only 2 centimeters big. Their call was what gave them away, but finding them in the end was not that easy as hearing them. As Hertz says: “Although we recognized that the male mating call of this species differs from all what we had heard before and therefore suspected it to be new, much effort was involved to finally spot it in the dense vegetation”.
When they were finally able to capture it and handle it, they were surprised to see that the frogs stained their hands yellow, a remarkable thing indeed. It turned out that their skin has an easily soluble pigment on it, of which the function as yet is not clear. The scientist tested the substance to see whether it would be a toxic defence against predators, but that turned out to be a false assumption. Now they speculate that the soluble pigment might give the frog a palatable taste and might therefore deter predators. Well, whatever turns out to be true, the pigment gives the frog a colorful appearance and makes a very enigmatic frog of it.