The “staff” of the Costa Rican Amphibian Research Center (consisting of Brian Kubicki and his wife, Aura Reyes) is actively involved in conducting various research projects that are focused on increasing the knowledge into the areas of alpha taxonomy, phenotypic variation, distributions, and natural history of Costa Rican amphibians.
This research is being carried out both within the C.R.A.R.C. private reserves and throughout the rest of Costa Rica.
Although numerous topics of interest are being studied, much of our available time and resources are being focused on four principal research projects initiated by the C.R.A.R.C.:
The Glass Frog Research and Conservation Project was initiated by the C.R.A.R.C. in attempt to gather updated information regarding the alpha-level taxonomy, natural history, distributions, and status of Costa Rica’s 14 species of glass frogs.
The goals of the project include conducting a detailed nation-wide census to quantify the actual distributions and status of the glass frog species native to the republic in addition to reviewing the alpha-level taxonomy and further advancing the knowledge surrounding the natural history of Costa Rica’s glass frogs.
One poorly known region of Costa Rica stands out for its impressive concentration of amphibian diversity, that of the central Caribbean. The central Caribbean slopes and lowlands host a mega biological diversity, but unfortunately due to the difficult access of much of the region, it also remains one of the least studied of Costa Rica. The Central Caribbean slopes and lowlands of Costa Rica is now recognized to harbor possibly the highest concentration of amphibian species on the planet, but more detailed field studies are needed to fully understand the current diversity, abundance, and distribution of species within the central Caribbean of Costa Rica.
Starting in 1999, Brian concentrated much of his effort towards documenting the amphibian richness in the small region of Guayacán de Siquirres. Prior to his amphibian inventory in this area, 31 species, known from specimens that were deposited in the Museum of Zoology at the University of Costa Rica, had been documented from Guayacán. Since starting inventories in the region of Guayacán, aided in part by the help from a few locals, Brian has been able to increase the known amphibian diversity to more than 70 species, resulting in Guayacán being recognized as the richest site in Costa Rica and one of the richest in the world for amphibian diversity (Kubicki 2008; Savage & Kubicki 2010; Kubicki 2016; Kubicki & Arias 2017; Brian Kubicki en prep).
Brian realized the importance of broadening his area of study to encompass more habitats and altitude, and in doing so further the knowledge of the species within. In 2012 he came up with the idea for a project known as the “Central Caribbean Amphibian Inventory Initiative” and has since put it into action. The goal of this project is to generate concurrent data regarding the presence and distribution of species in this region through detailed field inventories. According to his data thus far, which is based on historical collections from within the region in addition to his personal fieldwork, Brian has been able to quantify that more than 130 amphibian species that inhabit or inhabited the Central Caribbean region of Costa Rica. Of the more than 130 species of amphibians, nearly 30 are categorized by the IUCN Red List as either “Critically Endangered” or “Endangered”.
Since initiating this project Brian has discovered and described two species that were new to science (Bolitoglossa aurae and Oedipina berlini), rediscovered species that had not been seen in decades, or documented species that had never been known to inhabit Costa Rica or the region. The potential of this project to add to the knowledge of the amphibians of Costa Rica, and provide the updated information that can be used for implementing possible conservation action plans cannot be underestimated.
Review of the Taxonomy, Natural History, and Distributions of Costa Rican Moss Salamanders (Genus: Nototriton).
Since 2012 Brian has also dedicated much of his life to the pursuit of obtaining a better understanding and documentation of what is considered to be one of the most enigmatic amphibian taxa native to Costa Rica, that of the tiny moss salamanders of the genus Nototriton. This dedication includes spending countless hours studying the available literature on the known species of moss salamanders native to Costa Rica; reviewing and making thousands of detailed measurements on preserved specimens, and of course conducting hundreds of hours of fieldwork in the cloud forests along the Caribbean slopes of Costa Rica, often with his wife Aura Reyes, to study the nine species of tiny moss salamanders currently known to be endemic to the country. Brian’s goal has been to combine this experience towards conducting a detailed alpha-level taxonomic review of the species in addition to simply increasing the knowledge of the natural history and actual distributions of these tiny salamanders. Moss salamanders are considered to be one of most the poorly understood groups of herpetofauna in Costa Rica (Savage 2002).
Captivity as a Means of Providing Insight into the Natural History of Poorly Known Amphibian Taxa.
Having the ability to observe amphibians in captivity is of extreme importance to allow for a better understanding of their natural history. Due to the specialized biology and specific habitat preference of many species it can be extremely difficult to impossible to make natural history observations in the wild; this has led to a large void in the understanding of the general biology of most amphibians, especially tropical taxa. In terrariums that closely resemble a particular species’ natural habitat many important biological aspects can be observed and documented, potentially providing information that could be crucial for its conservation.
All of his life Brian has had an interest in keeping fishes and amphibians in captivity as a means to learn about their natural history through observation. Over the decades he has been able to acquire the experience to allow him to be successful in keeping and breeding several taxa of anurans, and now more recently even Neotropical (bolitoglossine) salamanders.
Although Brian has worked with several anuran taxa native to Costa Rica over the last two decades, since 2012 much of his now very limited time and effort dedicated to captivity has shifted to some of the lungless salamanders that are native to the country. Like always, his goal has been to gain a better understanding of the general biology of these very secretive amphibians, while at the same time hopefully having the ability to develop captive husbandry guidelines that could prove to be highly important in case the need for any ex situ management plans develop in the future. Very little attention or effort has been invested in working with any of the nearly 300 species of Neotropical “bolitoglossine” salamander species in captivity; Costa Rica is home to more than 50 salamander species, many of which are endemic.
In 2013 Brian was awarded $4700 through an Amphibian Ark Seed Grant to help with his efforts to study the biology and generate information regarding the captive husbandry of Neotropical salamanders. His grant project was entitled “Ex situ methodology building for Neotropical caudates, with a special emphasis on three species of Costa Rican Moss Salamanders of the genus Nototriton.”
After hundreds of hours of fieldwork concentrated on moss salamanders throughout Costa Rica, which included detailed observations of their particular habitats and the physical parameters interacting with them, Brian gained the mental tools to attempt recreating these conditions within captive parameters. Important data regarding the physical parameter dynamics within their microhabitats both in the wild and in the experimental captive system was made possible through the use of dataloggers. This experimental system has proven to be successful in allowing for the first known breeding events within captivity for any species of moss salamander, and now several of the moss salamander species native to Costa Rica have been bred by Brian. Despite this initial success, there is still much to be learned about these very poorly known bolitoglossines.
The pioneering research and conservation efforts of the C.R.A.R.C. are made possible thanks to the funds that are generated by visitors and private donations. Please consider helping support the work of the C.R.A.R.C. by visiting the Guayacán Rainforest Reserve on your next trip to Costa Rica or by making a donation.