Chocolate-colored frog among new species found in Suriname

A three week expedition in the south of Suriname has led to the discovery of 60 new species, including a chocolate-colored frog named the’ cocoa frog’. The expedition also turned up five other potentially new frog species, among them a poison dart frog. Recently, another poison dart frog had been discovered not far away in the Iwokrama Mountians in Central Guyana. This part of the Amazon and Suriname in particular is home to relatively pristine and untouched forests and biodiversity seems to be still thriving there.

And now a bit of history. Famously, the Dutch traded to the British their colony of New Amsterdam for the South American colony of Suriname. More historically correct, in the treaty of Breda (1667) the Dutch and the British agreed that they would both keep hold of the areas they had conquered in the Second Anglo-Dutch war. And that meant that the Dutch were now in charge in Suriname and the British ruled over New Amsterdam. This event is often quoted to state how foolish the Dutch had been to give away New Amsterdam that would later grow up to be New York or the ‘Big Apple’. One of the most famous cities in the world with millions of inhabitants and a very important economical center. What if they would have never given up on New Amsterdam. This in contrast to Suriname that still seems underdeveloped and has even today just over half a million inhabitants.

Scientists believe the so-called 'cocoa' frog is new to science. Photo by: Conservation International.

Scientists believe the so-called ‘cocoa’ frog is new to science. Photo by: Conservation International.

However, in the colonial era Suriname was a great catch with its natural wealth and plantations. And still today its natural wealth is something very valuable and virtually unrivaled, mainly because the forests have remained relatively untouched and therefore still hold significant biological treasures. Biodiversity is still flourishing there. And in this way Suriname is of great value to the world, for instance by providing important ecosystem services like carbon storage. This great natural wealth has been affirmed recently by the findings of scientists that spent three weeks in the Suriname jungle, recording as many species as possible.

This expedition in the Suriname jungle, part of a Conservation International’s  Rapid Assessment Program (RAP) , has uncovered 60 potential new species to science, including the cocoa frog, a chocolate-brown frog belonging to the genus of Hypsiboas, and six other frog species. Among those new frogs there was a new poison dart frog species. One can imagine that a more thorough survey would bring to light even more species new to science, including more amphibians. This is backed by an earlier article in which Mongabay reported about an expedition in 2012 that discovered 45 new species and a frog unknown to science as well in a region of Suriname close to where the 2013 expedition went. The reason that Suriname is such a promosing land for finding new species, has to do with the small population of the country, that is concentrated in the coastal area in the north, and the fact that 91% of the country is still forested. The southern part of Suriname is considered to be part of the Amazonian rainforest which is renowned for its immense diversity. The forests of Suriname are part of the Guyanan Shield, a large area of tropical wet forest that makes up about 25% of the Amazonian rainforest and is home to still pristine ecosystems. These expeditions show that this part of the Amazonian rainforest is well preserved and still more amphibian species await discovery.

A possible new species of frog: Hypsiboas sp. (nickname "cowboy frog") discovered in southwest Suriname Photo by © Paul Ouboter.

A possible new species of frog: Hypsiboas sp. (nickname “cowboy frog”) discovered in southwest Suriname Photo by © Paul Ouboter.

The original post from Mongabay now follows:

“ In one of the most untouched and remote rainforests in the world, scientists have discovered some sixty new species, including a chocolate-colored frog and a super-mini dung beetle. The species were uncovered in Southeastern Suriname during a Rapid Assessment Program (RAP); run by Conservation International (CI), RAPS involve sending teams of specialists into little-known ecosystems to record as much biodiversity as they can in a short time. In this case, sixteen researchers from around the world had about three weeks to document the region’s biodiversity.

“Suriname is one of the last places where an opportunity still exists to conserve massive tracts of untouched forest and pristine rivers where biodiversity is thriving,” says Trond Larsen, the Director of the Rapid Assessment Program at Conservation International. “Ensuring the preservation of these ecosystems is not only vital for the Surinamese people, but may help the world to meet its growing demand for food and water as well as reducing the impacts of climate change.”

The biologists visited four sites along the upper Palumeu River watershed, including mountains to lowlands. They catalogued 1,378 species in total (an average of 86 per researcher), of which about sixty are thought new to science.

Suriname is one of the most-heavily forested countries in the world: around 91 percent of the country is still covered in forest according the FAO, while the small country’s population remains small. However, mining, hydropower, and other industries are beginning to take their toll. In fact, the team measured high levels of mercury in the river despite being far from mining sites, but Larsen says the mercury is likely coming from mining and energy operations in other countries.

The region is a part of the Guiana Shield, a massive stretch of rainforest situated above the Amazon, which covers northern South America, including Guyana, French Guiana, Suriname, and portions of Colombia, Venezuela, and Brazil. The Guiana Shield is sometimes considered a part of the Amazon rainforest, though not of the Amazon Basin. Although lesser known than many of the world’s rainforests, the Guiana Shield makes up about a quarter of the world’s total rainforests and is among the world’s least degraded.

“I have conducted expeditions all over the world, but never have I seen such beautiful, pristine forests so untouched by humans. Southern Suriname is one of the last places on earth where there is a large expanse of pristine tropical forest,” noted expedition leader and ant expert Leeanne Alonso. “The high number of new species discovered is evidence of the amazing biodiversity of these forests that we have only just begun to uncover.”


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