Scientists discover a new species of rain frog in Panama and have named it after climate activist Greta Thunberg.
In 2018, the Rainforest Trust celebrated its 30th anniversary by hosting an auction which offered the naming rights for a variety of new-to-science species. The funds raised at the auction were to aid in the conservation of the newly recognised species. The scientific article officially describing and naming the new species of rain frog, ‘Pristimantis gretathunbergae’, was published in Pensoft’s scientific journal Zookeys.
It is estimated that about 100 new species are discovered each year. The international team that revealed the new rain frog was led by Abel Batista, Ph.D and Konrad Mebert, Ph.D. The two have collaborated for 10 years in Panama and have published eight scientific articles together, describing a total of 12 new species.
How the rain frog was discovered
The team found the new species of rain frog on Mount Chucanti, a sky island surrounded by lowland tropical rainforest in eastern Panama. Reaching its habitat in the cloud forest required access via horseback through muddy trails, hiking up steep slopes, by-passing two helicopters that crashed decades ago, and camping above 1000 m elevation. The Chucanti reserve was established by the Panamanian conservation organisation ADOPTA with support from the rainforest trust.
The Greta Thunberg rain frog exhibits distinctive black eyes, which is unique for Central American rain frogs. Its closest relatives inhabit north-western Colombia. Unfortunately, the frog’s remaining habitat is severely fragmented and highly threatened by rapid deforestation for plantations and cattle pasture. The Chucanti Reserve where the frog was first discovered is part of a growing network of natural parks and preserves championed by the Panamanian Government.
Greta Thunberg climate activism
The Rainforest Trust auction winner chose to name the frog in honour of Greta Thunberg and her work highlighting the urgency in preventing climate change. Her ‘School Strike for Climate’ outside the Swedish parliament has inspired students worldwide to carry out similar strikes called ‘Fridays for Future’. She has impressed global leaders and her work is drawing others to action for the climate.
The plight of the Greta Thunberg rain frog is closely linked to climate warming, as rising temperatures would destroy its small mountain habitat. The Mount Chucanti region has already lost more than 30% of its forest cover over the past 10 years. Deadly chytrid fungus pose additional threats for the amphibians inhabiting this environment. Conservation of the remaining habitat is critical to ensure the survival of the frog. The important work in Panama by ADOPTA and Rainforest Trust to globally protect rainforests is critical to the survival of this newly discovered frog as well as many other endangered species.