If you ever wished you could choose the name of a new species, now is your chance. Television personality Jeff Corwin and Amphibian Ark are offering naming rights for five newly discovered and as-yet-unnamed frog species to the highest bidder.
Corwin, host and executive producer of The Jeff Corwin Experience and Corwin's Quest on the Animal Planet cable television channel, is cosponsoring the "Five for Frogs" campaign to raise awareness of the worldwide decline of frogs and other amphibians.
Approximately 6,100 amphibian species inhabit the planet. Of that total, some 2,600 -- 42 percent -- are declining in number. Fully one-third are imperiled. Although other animal groups also are suffering, amphibians are especially hard-hit. Only 12 percent of bird species and 23 percent of mammal species are imperiled worldwide.
Missouri is no exception to the worldwide trend.
Approximately 16 percent of Missouri's amphibian species show declining population trends. One-third (14 of 43) of Show-Me State amphibian species are "species of conservation concern."
The auction is taking place online at www.charitybuzz.com.
Naming rights for two species already have been sold. The first -- a member of Genus Osornophryne, was an endangered "walking frog" indigenous to the remote Andes Mountains in Ecuador. It brought $5,500 from an individual bidder.
The most recent auction, which closed June 30, involved a member of the poison-arrow frog family in Genus Mannophryne. The right to name it brought $10,100.
The thumb-sized frog inhabits forests in the Venezuelan Andes. It is mostly brown but has sporty yellow stripes down its flanks and patches of yellow on the underside of its chin, chest and abdomen.
It was discovered when the National Geographic Society sent scientists to inventory amphibians in an area slated for clearing to create a coffee plantation.
Next on the "Five for Frogs" auction block is another frog in the poison-arrow or "nurse-frog" family. This one is thumbnail-sized and brown overall, with orange stripes on its sides and yellow on its belly. It belongs to Genus Anomaloglossus.
A Venezuelan herpetologist discovered it in 2004 in the Venezuelan rainforest. It is only known to inhabit one small stream.
Females of the previously unknown species lay their eggs in moist leaf litter.
The parents guard the developing eggs, and when the eggs hatch, the tiny tadpoles climb onto their parents' backs and hitch a ride to isolated bodies of water, such as rainwater caught in tree holes or bromeliad leaves.
There they complete their development.
Amphibian Ark spokesman Kevin Zippel said the conservation status of the species is "completely unknown."
"One thing that desperately needs to be done, and that auction proceeds will help pay for, is to do more field work to find out just how widespread this species is. If it is relatively widespread, maybe it doesn't have much conservation need at this time. If it's only found in that one small stream, then it probably is in big trouble," Zippel said.
The auction permits bidding by individuals or groups. The current auction closes at 1 p.m. July 30. Amphibian Ark will auction off two more species in August and September.
"This could be an excellent opportunity for a conservation group -- say a local Audubon society or a state conservation federation -- to promote itself and amphibian conservation while making a financial contribution to a good cause," said Zippel. "Pooling resources would be a great way to increase your bidding power."
Zippel said auction winners get to work with scientists to create an appropriate scientific name for their species.
"There are rules that govern how species can be named," said Zippel. "What we are auctioning is the second part of the scientific name. For example, if Donald Trump got excited about this and won the right to name a species, one possible name might be 'Anomaloglossus trumpi,' the Latinized version of his last name."
Species of conservation concern are species showing declining trends, with limited occurrence in Missouri or are restricted to limited habitat, according to State Herpetologist Jeff Briggler with the Missouri Department of Conservation.
Besides habitat loss, amphibians worldwide are suffering from a fungus.
The pathogenic amphibian chytrid fungus is believed to have arrived in the United States in the 1960s or 1970s with shipments of African frogs for pets.