The Panamanian golden frog communicates with other frogs by semaphore in the form of gentle hand waves. It has evolved the mechanism to signal to rivals and mates above the noise of mountain streams.
Just after filming was completed in June 2006, the location was overtaken by the chytrid fungus.
The global trade in frogs, toads and other amphibians–begun in the 20th century– may have accidentally helped create and spread the deadly fungal disease, chytridiomycosis, which has devastated amphibian populations worldwide.
“It’s likely that the amphibian trade has allowed different populations of the fungus from around the world to come into contact with each other, allowing recombination to occur,” says Rhys Farrer from Imperial College London and ZSL’s Institute of Zoology, lead author of the study, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
What’s more, researchers say that unless the trade is regulated, even deadlier strains of the disease may soon emerge.
“The horse has well and truly bolted,” said Dr. Matthew Fisher from Imperial College London, ” but to halt the further spread of this disease, we really need to increase global biosecurity.”
Hilary Jeffkins, senior producer for the BBC One series, said “This whole species is now extinct in Panama – one of the last remaining populations. Its final wave was in our programme.”
Local people believe that the frogs turn to solid gold when they die.