To find a "leopard-print" frog that is essentially unknown to science and to learn how it reproduces, an all-female team braved 50°C heat and poisonous snakes.
The tiny Santa Fe frog, whose habitat is being destroyed in one of the world's driest forests, the Dry Chaco, is being fought for by Argentine conservationists.
They learned how it lurks in caves, only coming out to call for a mate.
And for the first time, they discovered the species' tadpoles.
Isis Ibaez, the project leader for the Santa Fe frog, based in Buenos Aires, said, "It hasn't been an easy journey so far, but we're determined to do what we can to secure the future for this wonderful amphibian.".
Santa Fe frog [. Laticeps, the leptodactyl. ) despite being discovered more than a century ago, science still knows very little about it.
Due to the destruction of the tropical dry forests where it once lived, the frog, which is only found in Argentina, Bolivia, and Paraguay, is now rare.
To find the vividly colored frogs and observe their behavior, the researchers installed camera traps.
This species of frog lives underground, unlike most frogs, which call loudly to attract a mate from a pond, stream, or swamp.
The team discovered that the males came out at dusk to announce their presence before hopping back into their burrows with interested females.
They finally discovered signs of eggs and tadpoles after digging for hours at night.
The first step in ensuring the frog's safety in the wild is to investigate its breeding habits.
The conservation scientists hope to raise awareness of other animals that are threatened with extinction as well as the biodiversity of the Dry (or Grand) Chaco by bringing attention to the plight of the frog.
According to team member Camila Deutsch, "This species is a prime example of why we must protect the forest in the Dry Chaco.". We don't have a lot of time. ".
In order to understand the frog better and develop strategies for better protecting it, scientists are also collaborating with local community leaders, hunters, and farmers.
The Grand Chaco is a vast area of dry plains and forests that crosses parts of Bolivia, Argentina, and Paraguay.
In order to make room for ranches and cropland, the Chaco woodlands have been gradually cleared over the past few decades.
Despite receiving less attention than its Amazonian neighbor, the forest has one of the world's highest rates of deforestation.
Because it is inaccessible and extremely hot, the region has been called "El Impenetrable" and even "hell on Earth.". Daytime highs of 50°C are possible, and little rain falls during this time.
Hundreds of different species of birds, mammals, reptiles, and amphibians survive and even thrive in the harsh environment.
Gabriela Agostini remarked that the area was a dry forest with amazing biodiversity.
Amphibians face a serious threat to extinction. For about 40 years now, a pathogenic fungus has been wreaking havoc on populations all over the world.
Hunting and habitat loss are additional stresses on the animals.
The Wildlife Conservation Society, BirdLife International, and Fauna and Flora are all partners in the Conservation Leadership Programme (CLP), which provides funding for the Santa Fe frog project.
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