22 April 2008

Jabba the Hutt or Rare Frog?

Bornean Flat-headed Frog (Barbourula kalimantanensis), Endangered

On the island of Borneo, lives a frog that has been described by David Bickford as "a squished version of Jabba the Hutt," the slimy slug-like character from the Star Wars movies. Resembling a famous alien, however, isn't its claim to fame. Bickford, of the National University of Singapore and a team of scientists, recently discovered that Barbourula kalimantensis is the only known lungless frog in the world. It 'inhales' 100% of its oxygen through it's skin.

Scientists speculate that the adaptation has allowed this frog to survive in the clear, cold, fast-flowing streams where it lives. Having lungs would make the frogs more buoyant, and hence more likely to be washed downriver. As it is, the denser lungless frogs can more easily sink to the bottom of the river without being swept away. This fast-flowing cold current habitat, is what makes lunglessness (is that a word?), possible. The cold water can hold more oxygen, and the current delivers it quickly and efficiently to the frogs flattened body, which provides a greater surface area for gas exchange. In water that is still, warm, or even slow-moving, these flat frogs can't survive.

Which is unfortunate, because the rivers of its forest home, are becoming slower and warmer, as illegal logging and gold-mining pollute the rivers and destroy vital habitat. The Bornean Flat-headed Frog may be headed for extinction if action isn't taken very soon.

If you want to help, you can donate to the Heart of Borneo project, organized by the WWF, which aims to conserve a chunk of rainforest. You can also donate to Amphibian Ark, an organization committed to conserving frogs and other amphibians.

No comments: