Feeds

Biologists track down elusive lungless frog

Backwards evolution in Borneo

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

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". ®

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

More from The Register

next story
Renewable energy 'simply WON'T WORK': Top Google engineers
Windmills, solar, tidal - all a 'false hope', say Stanford PhDs
Bond villains lament as Wicked Lasers withdraw death ray
Want to arm that shark? Better get in there quick
The next big thing in medical science: POO TRANSPLANTS
Your brother's gonna die, kid, unless we can give him your, well ...
SEX BEAST SEALS may be egging each other on to ATTACK PENGUINS
Boffin: 'I think the behaviour is increasing in frequency'
NASA launches new climate model at SC14
75 days of supercomputing later ...
Britain's HUMAN DNA-strewing Moon mission rakes in £200k
3 days, and Kickstarter moves lander 37% nearer takeoff
Reuse the Force, Luke: SpaceX's Elon Musk reveals X-WING designs
And a floating carrier for recyclable rockets
Simon's says quantum computing will work
Boffins blast algorithm with half a dozen qubits
prev story

Whitepapers

Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
How to determine if cloud backup is right for your servers
Two key factors, technical feasibility and TCO economics, that backup and IT operations managers should consider when assessing cloud backup.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
The Heartbleed Bug: how to protect your business with Symantec
What happens when the next Heartbleed (or worse) comes along, and what can you do to weather another chapter in an all-too-familiar string of debilitating attacks?