Exciting frog find in Seychelles’ Garden of Eden
(c) Lindsay Chong-Seng, Seychelles Islands Foundation - Sooglossus sechellensis - parental care whereby the tadpoles are carried on the adult's back.
Amphibian species worldwide are in what can only be described as a crisis. With many species at risk of extinction, the Seychelles Islands Foundation is particularly excited about a recent find in Seychelles Vallée de Mai.
Seychelles Islands Foundation (SIF) employee Daniel Jessy, a fieldworker in the World Heritage site, Vallée de Mai, on the island of Praslin found a tiny frog no bigger than a thumbnail: “Through the corner of my eye, I saw something jump”.
Daniel and other SIF staff are now trying to answer some important questions about this find. Could it be a new species? How come nobody has seen it before on a populated and often-visited island? How does it compare with species of frogs found on other Seychelles islands?
With help from colleague and SIF Science Coordinator Lindsay Chong-Seng, additional frogs have been found and SIF is now working with experts to formally identify the species. Believed to be from the Sooglossidae family it remains unknown if the frog is a member of an already-described or an entirely new species.
The Sooglossidae are represented in Seychelles by four currently described species. However, up until now, these have only been recorded on the two highest of the granitic islands, Mahé and Silhouette. This new find is encouraging as it may well be a previously undescribed species. Alternatively, it may indicate an additional location and significant increase in distribution and altitudinal range for a known species.
Amongst the smallest frogs in the world, the four Sooglossid species endemic to Seychelles have their nearest relative in India. They are unusual for several reasons including the fact that they exhibit an unusually high degree of parental care through nest guarding or carrying of tadpoles on the adult’s back. Further, they lack eardrums, a primitive feature indicating the family’s ancient origin. Very cryptic in behaviour and found amongst leaf litter, they are often hard to find. Each species has a distinctive call but many people mistake them for insects or crickets.
The Seychelles are renowned for stunning palm-fringed beaches, yet the islands are home to many rare and interesting species of animals and plants. Around 200 million years ago the granitic islands were joined to the eastern part of the supercontinent known as Gondwana. This ancient southern land mass then split apart into Australia, Antarctica, Madagascar, India and the Seychelles. The islands therefore harbour some ancient species, a number of which are known nowhere else in the world.
The Sooglossids survived the geological breakup of India and the Seychelles around 65 million years ago and typify the special nature of wildlife found on the islands.
Whether the recently discovered frogs belong to an already described species or not, the discovery on Praslin highlights the need for continued research and conservation in Seychelles, and the important role that the SIF plays as the caretaker of the Vallée de Mai.
S. sechellensis-Mahe-Seychelles-ND (27)
(c) Naomi Doak, Seychelles Islands Foundation - Sooglossus sechellensis found on Mahe.