Seychelles frogs – a tiny but unique heritage

Not many people in Seychelles are aware of a tiny, but most unique heritage. The Seychelles frogs or Sooglossids. They are endemic to Seychelles and found only on the islands of Silhouette and Mahé and all listed in the IUCN red list of endangered species.
“We have located the three species which we would like to monitor“ explains Rachel Bristol, Science Coordinator at Nature Seychelles, who with Gunther Bigl, a German biologist,  is implementing a project in collaboration with the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources to set up a monitoring system for the frogs. ”Compared to other frogs we really don't know have solid scientific information on the Sooglossids in the wild” Gunther Bigl says. “That might be because of their size (one of them is one of the tiniest frogs of the world with an maximum length of 11mm in adult males) and their hidden life inside the leaf litter and moss of the higher forests.“

But the facts that biologists have unraveled about Sooglossids are amazing: Gardineri's Seychelles frog (Sooglussus gardineri), deposits its eggs in nests in moist places like moss or leavelitter. The parents guard the nest until the fully developed juvenile frogs hatch at the sice of less than a rice-grain. The other species, Sooglossus seychellensis and Nesomantis thomasetti are not as tiny as their relatives. But in the nests of Sooglossus seychellensis little tadpoles hatch and climb on their parents back. They are carried around and without feeding leave their transport as frogs. They are independent of open water and evolved to live in our mountainous environment. About the ecology of the Nesomantis thomasetti is little known.

Through this project we will eventually find out more about the frogs. “We need to know the distribution over Mahe, the abundance and some more about where and how they live.“ says Mr. Bigl. In collaboration with the Ministry of Environment, Nature Seychelles started looking at the frogs and their habitats in February to establish a long term monitoring system based on the calls of the frogs. “The system has to be easy to handle and precise in determining eventual decline of the population for conservation measures to be applied quickly” says Rachel Bristol. Luckily most of the frog’s habitat is already protected and lies within the Morne Seychellois National Park. “But there are threats ranging  from impacts of human activities to climate change, and therefore a monitoring system is essential“  Mrs. Bristol says.

The recently launched global action plan for amphibians says that about a third of all amphibian species, which include frogs, toads, salamanders and caecilians, are at a high risk of extinction.  Up to 122 species have disappeared within the last 25 years.  The threats range from a fungal disease to habitat destruction. The project will assist in the global efforts to monitor amphibian populations, to get a better idea of how they are faring and where to put more effort and assistance for their conservation.

Nature Seychelles, 30th March 2006


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