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Sunday, September 11, 2011

On the edge of extinction - New Zealand's Archey's frog...


The world’s most important frog lives here in New Zealand. In fact it is not only the most important frog but the most important amphibian in the world.  It is critically endangered with its population in decline. It is beautiful, and more ancient than the Atlantic ocean. It, like many human kiwis, is the quiet type and has amazing patterns on its skin. It is also a great father.

Archey’s Frog is found on the Coromandel Peninsula and near Te Kuiti and it is ranked no. 1 on the EDGE list for amphibians.  Scientists have brought the world a unique scoring system; the world’s mammals and amphibians are scored according to how Evolutionarily Distinct and Globally Endangered (EDGE) they are.
Interestingly, Maori do not appear to have a special name for the different frog species – they are all called ‘pepeke’ (or some variant of that). The frogs here are very small and probably did not elicit much attention.

To give you a comparison with how critically endangered and unique Archey’s frog is, lets compare it to the New Zealand greater short-tailed bat (Mystacina robusta), which is number 4 on the mammal list and is thought to be extinct.

There are no other mammals listed from NZ (not even Maui’s dolphins appear on the list). Blue whales are listed at 74 on the scale. I guess it is because the Maui’s dolphin is not that evolutionarily distinct – but we should not take any less care of them for that matter.

So why isn’t this very beautiful frog one of our iconic species? Well I think it is because it isn’t a CMF – a Charismatic Mega Fauna like a lion, a dolphin or a kiwi. We shouldn’t evaluate how valuable an animal is by how beautiful or ugly it is. But we cannot really help doing that – we are humans and our brains are hard-wired for beauty. But is should be one of our iconic species it is hard enough being green whilst also being small!

New Zealand frogs are quite distinct from all the other frogs in the world and very ancient.



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Frog

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