Few people are familiar with the unique Seychelles Gardiner’s frog, which scientists often refer to as “perhaps the world’s smallest frog, with adults growing up to just 11mm in length – and juveniles no bigger than a grain of rice.” This frog, along with its closest relatives, all of which are only found in the
[Roche Caiman. 14/03/2008] Few people are familiar with the unique Seychelles Gardiner’s frog, which scientists often refer to as “perhaps the world’s smallest frog, with adults growing up to just 11mm in length – and juveniles no bigger than a grain of rice.” This frog, along with its closest relatives, all of which are only found in the Seychelles, on the islands of Mahe and Silhouette, has kept Seychelles on the international biodiversity radar.
Gardiner’s frog came to the world’s attention recently, when it was listed in the Zoological Society of London’s worlds top 100 weirdest, most wonderful and rarest amphibians, under the banner of the EDGE Amphibians Initiative. EDGE or Evolutionary Distinct and Globally Endangered animals have been initiated for both mammals and amphibians and highlights rare and genetically distinct species. Originally instigated for mammals and featuring Seychelles Sheath-tailed bat a similar list focusing on amphibians was launched recently. According to Dr Jonathan Baillie, Head of the EDGE programme:
“Tragically, amphibians tend to be the overlooked members of the animal kingdom, even though one in every three amphibian species is currently threatened with extinction, a far higher proportion than that of bird or mammal species. These species are the ‘canaries in the coalmine’ – they are highly sensitive to factors such as climate change and pollution, which lead to extinction, and are a stark warning of things to come. If we lose them, other species will inevitably follow. The EDGE programme strives to protect the world’s forgotten species and ensure that the weirdest species survive the current extinction crisis and astound future generations with their extraordinary uniqueness.”
Animals listed in the EDGE Programme are on the verge of extinction and in desperate need of immediate action. The EDGE list is compiled by mathematically combining a measure of each species’ unique evolutionary history with its threat of extinction. This is achieved by using the IUCN (World Conservation Union) Red List of endangered species in tandem with a family tree of amphibians. By doing this scientists are able to give species an EDGE value and rank them accordingly.
The EDGE concept and assessment was launched in January 2007 when the EDGE team assessed all mammal species and released the list of the top 100 EDGE mammals. The scientists have now done the same for all amphibian species (frogs, salamanders and caecilians) and have found that 85 of the top 100 are receiving little or no conservation attention.
Amphibians are declining as a result of a range threats including habitat destruction, pollution, climate change and disease. Scientists at the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) are currently researching the diseases affecting amphibians, with particular focus on the chytrid fungus, which is implicated in mass mortality and extinction events globally.
On the home front, the conservation agency, Nature Seychelles has been coordinating on-the ground efforts to monitor and assess the conservation status of the Gardiner’s frog and also to raise public awareness of this unique and endangered amphibian along with other Seychelles amphibians. The efforts are led by Dr. Naomi Doak a herpetologist of international standing and Nature Seychelles’ Science Coordinator. (ENDS)