A Scientist at the CSIR-Forestry Research Institute of Ghana (FORIG) has announced the discovery of a new frog species found in Ghana and nowhere else in the world.

The new frog species, Phrynobatrachus afiabirago, has a total body length of less than 30mm, approximately the size of a match box and is among the smallest amphibians on our planet. Phrynobatrachus afiabirago (Afia Birago’s puddle frog), has been named after the mother of the lead author (Dr. Caleb Ofori-Boateng), Madam Afia Birago due to her love for nature and the struggles she overcame to raise him and his siblings. Caleb recounts how, her mother, widowed at age 40 raised him and his seven siblings under extremely harsh economic conditions and ensured that each one of them attained the highest level of education.

In a scientific study published in the German-based peer reviewed scientific journal Zootaxa, the CSIR scientists, Dr. Caleb Ofori-Boateng and Dr. Bright Kankam who made this discovery explained that this new frog species is different from all other known frog species based on a combination of both genetic and physical (morphological) differences that include distinct color patterns, body shape and size.

According to Dr. Caleb Ofori-Boateng, he found the first individual of this species in a small forest patch along a forest stream near the town of Jukwa (5°14’44.13’’N, 1°22’42’’W) on the Cape Coast-Kakum National Park route in the central region of Ghana. Additional species have been found in the Atewa Hills Forest Reserve (6.24246°N, -0.5571°E) which the scientists believe houses the most significant population of this frog.

Dr. Ofori-Boateng further added that, “although frogs are very beneficial to the environment and humans, our actions are wiping a lot of these species out of existence on a global scale”. Frogs, he explained, have specialized glands in the skin that produce protein-like antimicrobial compounds (peptides) to help them fight various disease-causing organisms including bacteria and viruses. According to him, in a recent study Scientists have discovered that these protein-like compounds from frog skins could be used as a successful treatment in the fight against HIV infection.’ Frogs are therefore a potential cure for HIV/AIDS’ he opined. Still enumerating the benefits of frogs to humanity, he mentioned that frogs can contribute to reducing the prevalence of malaria by feeding on mosquito larvae and entreated the public to support frog conservation. Dr. Ofori-Boateng however lamented that, human actions are fast driving these species to extinction even before we can fully uncover their true benefits to humanity.

The Fumesua-based Forestry Research Institute of Ghana is one of 13 research institutes under CSIR Ghana with the legal mandate of conducting high quality user-focused research to support the sustainable management of Ghana’s forest resources. The CSIR-FORIG scientist worked alongside Prof. Mark Oliver Rödel and Prof. Adam Leaché of the Natural History museum, Berlin and University of Washington, Seattle respectively.

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