Newly Discovered Rainfrog Named After Greta Thunberg

Researchers found the frog in a sky island in Panama.

Greta Thunberg's rainfrog
Greta Thunberg's rainfrog.

Konrad Mebert

A tiny rainfrog, newly discovered on a mountain in Panama, has been named for climate activist Greta Thunberg.

Researchers first found the small frog while on an expedition in 2012 in eastern Panama, when they were studying the local diversity of amphibians and reptiles.

Konrad Mebert from the State University of Santa Cruz in Brazil and Abel Batista, a researcher at Chiriquí Autonomous University in Panama led the expedition. Mebert and Batista have collaborated for more than 10 years in Panama. They’ve published eight journal articles together and described 12 new species.

The researchers rode on horseback over muddy trails, up steep slopes to get up Mount Chucanti or Cerro Chucanti, the tallest mountain of the Majé mountain range.

At 4,721 feet (1,439 meters), the area is cold and humid and forms what is known as a sky island. The habitat above is extremely different from the lowland tropical rainforest below. The mountain is isolated and its unusual habitat—known as a cloud forest—is the only one within about 62 miles (100 kilometers) in any direction.

This rare cloud forest habitat has allowed species to evolve only there, which is why researchers like to look there for species discovery.

And that’s where Mebert and Batista found Greta Thunberg’s rainfrogs (Pristimantis gretathunbergae).

“The frogs were found in the cloud forest, sitting on vegetation, often on or in bromeliads,” Mebert tells Treehugger. Bromeliads are leafy tropical plants.

“The frog can be very variable, from yellow to brown, and some are even red, some with stripes and others with flecks,” Mebert says.

They have very prominent black eyes which differentiates them from closely related tree frogs in Central America, the researchers say.

The findings were published in the journal ZooKeys.

Choosing a Name

The Cerro Chucantí Private Nature Reserve is nearly 1,500 acres (600 hectares) established by the non-profit Adopt a Panama Rainforest Association (ADOPTA) with support from the Rainforest Trust. The Rainforest Trust is a nonprofit that protects tropical habitats and endangered species by working with local communities and organizations.

According to the trust, the region has lost more than 30% of its forest cover over the past decade. In addition, a deadly fungus is another threat to amphibians. That’s why the conservation of the existing habitat is so important.

The trust celebrated its 30th anniversary by hosting an auction offering naming rights to an unnamed species. The winner chose to name the rainfrog after Thunberg.

“Greta's activism for the environment is exemplary and deserves a frog named after her to generate more attention, as her name is globally known,” Mebert says.

The Rainforest Trust points out that the newly named frog’s plight is entwined with climate change, as rising temperatures are destroying the frog’s habitat.

“Rainforest Trust is deeply honored to sponsor the naming of this exquisite and threatened Panamanian frog species for Greta Thunberg," said Rainforest Trust CEO James Deutsch, Ph.D., in a statement. "Greta more than anyone reminds us that the future of every species on Earth depends on what we do right now to end climate change."

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  1. Mebert K., González-Pinzón M. et al. "A new rainfrog of the genus Pristimantis (Anura, Brachycephaloidea) from central and eastern Panama." ZooKeys, no. 1081, 2022, pp. 1-34. doi:10.3897/zookeys.1081.63009

  2. Konrad Mebert from the State University of Santa Cruz in Brazil

  3. Rainforest Trust, "New Species of Rainfrog Discovered in Panama and Named in Honor of Global Environmental Activist Greta Thunberg."

  4. ADOPTA, "Cerro Chucantí."