Eight new frog species discovered in Laos

You want to find a new frog species? Head to the Southeast Asian nation of Laos.

Scientists working in conjunction with the New York-based World Conservation Society, or WCS, say they have discovered eight new species of frogs in the past two years. Among them is one where the male is half the size of the female and another which has a row of spines running down its belly.

Their findings were reported earlier this year in Copeia, the journal of the American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists, and in other peer-reviewed scientific journals since 2004.

"Nobody has really paid much attention to Laos in terms of amphibian and reptile research," Bryan Stuart, whose team made the discoveries, told The Associated Press in a phone interview.

"So the amphibian fauna of Laos is much more poorly understood compared with neighboring countries. Almost every one of my field trips has yielded species unknown to science," he said.

The frogs are the latest new species to come out of the tiny, landlocked Asian country. Many are found in Laotian forests, largely unexplored by outsiders because of the geographic remoteness and the country's history of political turmoil.

Last year, scientists reported discovering a rat-like rodent known locally as kha-nyou. The mammal, with the face of a rat and the body of a skinny squirrel, previously was thought to have died out 11 million years ago, researchers writing in Science said in March.

Stuart, whose team also discovered a new species of salamander in Laos in 2004, said he is captivated by the new finds but also concerned since many of the frogs depend on forests which are constantly under threat across the region.

"These frogs are not living in rice paddies or near villages. They are living in intact forests," he said, reports the AP.

I.L.