Feeds

Biologists track down elusive lungless frog

Backwards evolution in Borneo

The Power of One Infographic

Scientists from the National University of Singapore have described a rare lungless frog which appears to absorb oxygen through its skin.

Barbourula kalimantanensis. Pic: National University of SingaporeThe university's team, led by evolutionary biologist David Bickford, spent two weeks scouring the remote Kalimantan region of Indonesian Borneo to find examples of Barbourula kalimantanensis, which was first identified 30 years ago.

The researchers report in Current Biology: "In August 2007, we visited Western Kalimantan but found that illegal gold mining had destroyed all suitable habitats in the vicinity. The originally cool, clear, fast-flowing rivers are now warm and turbid. Water quality around the locality is no longer suitable for the species, but we were able to re-discover two new populations upstream."

The university's website elaborates: "The frog lives in cold water which has higher oxygen content than warm water. The team surmises that the frog has a low metabolic rate and hence needs less oxygen anyway. It is also severely flat compared to other frogs and this would increase the surface area of the skin, allowing it to take in oxygen more efficiently.

"Having lungs also means being more buoyant and hence, more easily swept away by fast-flowing waters. Thus the loss of lungs as an adaptation to living in very fast-flowing streams seems to be a rational hypothesis as well."

Barbourula kalimantanensis is a strange critter indeed, and the team notes that "the evolution of lunglessness in four-limbed amphibians is exceedingly rare, and known in "only in two families of salamanders, and a single species of caecilian, a species of earthworm-like amphibian".

The scientists conclude: "The discovery of lunglessness in a secretive Bornean frog supports the idea that lungs are a malleable trait in the Amphibia, the sister group of all living tetrapods. Amphibians may be more prone to lunglessness since they readily utilize other methods for gas exchange."

Barbourula kalimantanensis is, inevitably, at risk from the destruction of its habitat. Bickford called for protection of this "evolutionary enigma" and he and his team will now move to "better understand the extinction risk of the species, to map its exact geographic range and to make a more complete assessment of potential habitats". ®

Eight steps to building an HP BladeSystem

More from The Register

next story
Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 claimed lives of HIV/AIDS cure scientists
Researchers, advocates, health workers among those on shot-down plane
The Sun took a day off last week and made NO sunspots
Someone needs to get that lazy star cooking again before things get cold around here
Mwa-ha-ha-ha! Eccentric billionaire Musk gets his PRIVATE SPACEPORT
In the Lone Star State, perhaps appropriately enough
MARS NEEDS OCEANS to support life - and so do exoplanets
Just being in the Goldilocks zone doesn't mean there'll be anyone to eat the porridge
Diary note: Pluto's close-up is a year from … now!
New Horizons is less than a year from the dwarf planet
Boffins discuss AI space program at hush-hush IARPA confab
IBM, MIT, plenty of others invited to fill Uncle Sam's spy toolchest, but where's Google?
Forty-five years ago: FOOTPRINTS FOUND ON MOON
NASA won't be back any time soon, sadly
prev story

Whitepapers

Reducing security risks from open source software
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Application security programs and practises
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Consolidation: the foundation for IT and business transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.