Just in times for Valentine’s Day, a Sehuencas water frog named Romeo had an online dating profile setup to search for love. This sort of thing isn’t usually newsworthy, except for the fact Romeo has been dubbed ‘the world’s loneliest frog’. He is the only known individual of his species, and the profile was completed to help raise awareness to the plight of Romeo’s species. He has been in captivity for almost a decade and has been calling for a mate ever since. This isn’t the first time a lone individual of a species has been known to science: in September 2016, the last Rabb’s fringe-limbed tree frog called Toughie passed away from old age. Like Romeo, he had been in captivity for a long time and unfortunately a female was never found for him to mate with.
The story is the same for both species – but how can you only have one individual left? There are a number of different factors which are causing synergistic effects on amphibian populations globally. Currently, 41% of amphibian species are threatened with extinction, the highest rate for any group of vertebrates. Habitat loss, pollution, overharvesting, and disease are some of the biggest threats facing amphibians. One of the main diseases that caused such rapid declines in both Romeo’s and Toughie’s species (as well as countless others) is chytridiomycosis. The disease is caused by a highly infectious fungus, and has been implicated in the global decline of amphibian populations.
“Romeo has been dubbed ‘the world’s loneliest frog’. He is the only known individual of his species”
Unfortunately it is unlikely that a female Sehuencas water frog will ever be found, despite the fact that in the late 1990s they were common in Bolivia. Even if one is found, will she be in a suitable condition to breed? Will he be too old by then? It’s sad to think that although Romeo’s dating profile has raised both awareness and funds to help protect other amphibians and their habitats in Bolivia, it’s likely he will suffer the same fate as Toughie. All hope is not lost as an elusive female may still be out there in the Bolivian wilds somewhere and hopefully she can be paired with Romeo. With raising threat of climate change and other such factors how long will it be until other common amphibian species across the globe are reduced to only a handful of individuals?