At about the same time that a new type of green frog was found in the forests of Myanmar, Dr. Panupong Thammachoti a lecturer at the Department of Biology, Faculty of Science, Chulalongkorn University has also found two new types of stream frogs in the Bago region to the north of Yangon, Myanmar.
For Dr. Panupong, a taxonomist and ecologist who has continuously researched reptiles and amphibians in this region, the discovery of these frogs in Myanmar is a reflection of the biodiversity in Southeast Asia which we all should be aware of and work together to ensure its survival.
Genome technology reveals the heredity of a new species of frogs
This discovery is a result of the collaboration between research teams from three countries – Chulalongkorn University’s Faculty of Science, East Yangon University of Myanmar, and Germany’s Senckenberg Forschungs institut und Naturmuseum led by Prof. Dr. Gunther Köhler, an expert in taxonomy and genome technology for reptiles and amphibians.
“We took two years to conduct our research and most of the time was spent collecting specimens both in Thailand and Myanmar after which the frogs were sent for analysis at the Senckenberg laboratory in Germany. The process involved applying our knowledge in physics that’s applied to biology to examine the DNA, analyze the vocal variations of frogs, as well as study the genome, or the entire genetic data of these frogs until we found two of the world’s newest species of frogs.” Dr. Panupong explained the process of the research project on the diversity of stream frogs in Myanmar, and the mountain range in the western and southern part of Thailand which began in 2019.
The study that led to the discovery of the two species of stream frogs has been documented and published in the international journal, Diversity, in August of 2021.
The characteristics of the world’s new stream frogs
Dr. Panupong explained the general characteristics of the stream frog that “their habitat is in the streams of tropical forests like the jungles in the western and southern part of Thailand. The size of each frog is about 3-5 centimeters. Their bodies are brown and appear much like a leaf which is a form of camouflage. These frog species only make mating calls at night. As tadpoles, they live around the streams where the gush of water isn’t very strong and when they are fully grown will move to the side of the stream. They are found mostly in the rainy season which is their mating season.”
The two newly discovered species of stream frogs are the Bago Stream Frog (Limnonectes bagoensis) and the Bamboo Forest Bago Frog (Limnonectes bagoyoma).
“Both types of frogs are similar in that their skin is slippery, they are dark brown or brown mixed with olive green. Their forelegs have four toes without connective tissue while the hind legs have five toes with connective tissues that enable them to swim. The skin on their backs is quite smooth with only a few lumps while the skin on their stomachs is white or cream-colored, very smooth and not lumpy.”
“In terms of differences, the Bago Stream Frog has a black strip from the end of its nose to the side of the ear and its body size is 30-49 centimeters. It is larger than the Bamboo Forest Bago Frog which measures 23-29 centimeters.”
Relationship between frogs and the ecosystem
The discovery of these new species of frogs is a good indicator of the fertility of the forests in Southeast Asia since the habitat of these frogs are natural bodies of water that are clean, clear, and always flowing.
Although there are still some stream frogs remaining, Dr. Panupong reminds us that the numbers are dwindling and if deforestation continues the changes in forest conditions could eventually lead to the frogs’ extinction.
“We hope that the knowledge generated from this research will let people see the importance of forests and refrain from cutting down trees and destroying forests. It is also important to find ways to develop the appropriate form of ecotourism that also leads to the conservation of forests.” Dr. Panupong added.
The future of other species discoveries
Dr. Panupong continues to study and disseminate knowledge on reptiles and amphibians in Thailand. He plans to further his research on stream frogs and frogs in the south of Thailand which have features that are similar to frogs found in Myanmar. Research will also be carried out on other reptiles such as the world’s new skink found on the mountains of Indonesia, the Kukri snake which isn’t poisonous but often likes to eat the eggs of poisonous snakes, and the rattlesnake which is highly poisonous. We often hear news of people being bitten by this type of snake.
Dr. Panupong ended by sharing his opinion that “The discovery of new animal species is an indicator of the fertility of forests in our region.
I believe there are still a large number of reptiles and amphibians waiting for us to discover and study. Research on these animals will enable us to understand the significance of the animal life that coexists with humans in the ecosystem. Some of the reptiles and amphibians can be beneficial in terms of science and technology.
Even if their appearance isn’t as attractive as other animals and some are also poisonous but they are important to the ecosystem, the study and research on natural history and biology which also includes the way of life of these animals will help us humans to be able to sustainably maintain the balance of the ecosystem.”