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New rainfrog named after climate activist Greta Thunberg

On Monday, January 10, 2022, a new species of rainfrog recently discovered on the sky island of Cerro Chucantí in eastern Panama has been named after the famous environmental activist Greta Thunberg. Pristimantis gretathunbergae was discovered by an international team of researchers funded by Rainforest Trust, a nonprofit environmental organization.

“Rainforest Trust is deeply honored to sponsor the naming of this exquisite and threatened Panamanian frog species for Greta Thunberg. Greta more than anyone reminds us that the future of every species on Earth depends on what we do right now to end climate change,” said Rainforest Trust CEO James Deutsch.

The research team that discovered this rainfrog was led by Abel Batista, a herpetologist at the Universidad Autónoma de Chiriquí (Panama) and Konrad Mebert, an independent researcher previously affiliated with the University of Basel (Switzerland). The two scientists have collaborated for more than ten years and described together 12 new species.

Discovering Pristimantis gretathunbergae has not been an easy task. Reaching the frog’s habitat on Cerro Chucantí, a sky island surrounded by lowland tropical rainforest in eastern Panama, required travelling on horseback through muddy trails, hiking on steep slopes, and camping above 1000 meters.   

The rainfrog has distinctive, unusually prominent black eyes, a contrasting light upper lip, a large head, and a single conical tubercle on the upper eyelid. Its current habitats are severely fragmented and threatened by rapid deforestation aiming to replace the pristine region with plantations and cattle pastures. Moreover, rising temperatures caused by climate change are additional stressors for this frog’s small mountain habitat.

“Investigations on the ecology of the new species and its population status, especially at the type locality, are highly recommended. As a flagship species, this new frog can help to preserve the Chucantí cloud forest including several recently described species known only from this isolated area in eastern Panama,” wrote the study authors.

A scientific description of Pristimantis gretathunbergae and its habitat can be found in the journal ZooKeys

Image Credit: Konrad Mebert

By Andrei Ionescu, Staff Writer

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