Missing “Rain Frog” Resurfaces in Honduras: Freshwater Species of the Week

A critically endangered Miles’ robber frog was just found in Honduras by Jonathan Kolby. Photo Jonathan Kolby

freshwater species of the weekIn 2008, National Geographic Young Explorer Jonathan Kolby re-discovered a frog species endemic to Honduras that had been declared extinct. The amphibian had vanished mysteriously in the mid 1980s.

Now, the Australia-based Kolby told us via email, “I’ve been searching for more proof of its existence every year since, and finally found a second one a few weeks ago [in Cusuco National Park]!  It’s super exciting and shows the species is still hanging on to existence.”

But, Kolby warns, “There is now an onslaught of extremely devastating illegal deforestation throughout the park, which could potentially drive the species to true extinction.”

The Miles’ robber frog (Craugastor milesi) is a highland species that had been known in only two locations: Cusuco National Park and Cerro Azul Copan National Park in Honduras. Like other related species, the Miles’ robber frog eschews the tadpole phase, instead following “direct development,” in which tiny versions of adult frogs emerge from eggs. In the case of this species, eggs are laid in damp leaf litter.

Such frogs are often called “rain frogs,” because they depend on moisture directly from the heavens, instead of from a surface body. According to Kolby, the Miles’ robber frog also tends to be found close to rivers and streams, where it is moist.

Kolby said chytrid fungus is widespread in the frog’s habitat and that it may have contributed to the animal’s decline.

Illegal logging in Honduras
Illegal logging threatens the parks where the frog lives. Photo Jonathan Kolby

The Miles’ robber frog that Kolby found in July seemed healthy, he said. “It is unknown whether this particular animal was infected, but the presence of adult animals that look otherwise healthy strongly suggests hope for species–these animals may have undergone strong natural selection in the 1980’s and developed resistance to disease, despite the seemingly incredibly small remaining population.”

Still, he warned that illegal deforestation is on the rise in Cusuco National Park. “Expansive plots of rainforest are now being felled at an accelerated pace, and the site where I encountered this C. milesi is less than a couple kilometers from active clear-cutting activities witnessed while conducting my surveys,” he wrote.

“Sadly, it is likely that the habitat of this critically endangered frog may soon be destroyed, pushing it ever closer to extinction for a second time.


Brian Clark Howard covers the environment for National Geographic. He previously served as an editor for TheDailyGreen.com and E/The Environmental Magazine, and has written for Popular Science, TheAtlantic.com, FastCompany.com, PopularMechanics.com, Yahoo!, MSN, and elsewhere. He is the co-author of six books, including Geothermal HVACGreen LightingBuild Your Own Small Wind Power System, and Rock Your Ugly Christmas Sweater.