SPECIES RECLAMATION VIA A NON-LINEAR GENETIC TIMELINE;
As an artist involved in environmental issues, global disappearances of bio-diversity is both a concern and a focus. For me, one of the most exciting aspects of genetic research may some day be the ability to re-establish animal and plant species that we are now losing to extinction.
Over the past four years, I have been studying amphibian declines and deformities. I have participated in and instigated numerous amphibian surveys throughout North America. All over the globe Amphibian populations are decreasing. Loss or destruction of habitat , is probably the most wide-spread threat. A recent discovery of a malignant Chytrid fungus (Chytridiomycosis) has been linked to population declines in Australia, Central and North America. Other culprits include pollution and increased ultraviolet radiation from ozone thinning.
Currently I am a field observer for the North American Reporting Center for Amphibians Malformations (NARCAM) and have begun to breed a number of species. One long term project involves Dwarf African Clawed Frogs of the Hymenochirus family. In the experiments I am selectively breeding colonized individuals with the intention of surfacing traits of Hymenochirus curtipes, believed to be a declining species. The piece references historical biological data on Hymenochirus, by Dr. George Rabb of the Chicago Zoological Park, a fore-father in Hymenochirus research.
Hymenochirus originates in the Congo region of Africa. As early as 1924 herpetologists classified two species, Hymenochirus curtipes and Hymenochirus boettgeri, each with distinct characteristics and habitat requirements. In 1959 a third possible species was described, Hymenochirus boulengeri, but by 1962 H. boulengeri was deemed as a cross-breed of the above mentioned species.
The Congo represents about five percent of the earth's remaining rain forests and about fifty percent of Africa's. Over the past century the tropical region has undergone massive urban expansion drastically changing the ecosystem. Bio-diversity in the Congo is currently threatened by 'slash and burn' clearing of forests and by increased economic demand for logging. Political chaos and civil turmoil in the newly established Democratic Republic of the Congo, formerly Zaire, over the past decade have severely retarded biological studies. Amphibians globally are declining at an unprecedented rate, data available on the remaining species in the Congo is inconclusive.
Recent literature suggests both Hymenochirus species may now be rare or obsolete in their native environment. In an unusual situation the retail pet industry seems to have helped preserve the Hymenochirus family.
As early as the 1950's Dwarf African Clawed Frogs became a popular American and European aquarium species. Since the 1960's a large selection of African fish and Hymenochirus have been commercially bred in India. H. curtipes is much harder to rear in captivity than either H. boettgeri or the sub-species H. boulengeri. As of now I do not know if anyone is successfully breeding H. curtipes. I have tried unsuccessfully over the past year to obtain live Congo specimens. Though many of the specimens I have from India show H. curtipes traits, such as shortened limbs and snout, I have not been able to obtain a pure H. curtipes. Through selective breeding and controlled genetic colonies I am attempting to re-establish an H. curtipes model.
The piece attempts to selectively breed aquatic frogs originating from the Congo region of tropical Africa. Hymenochirus. curtipes was once a widely distributed species that over the past forty years may have been depleted from its native home or perhaps become obsolete. By controlled paring of related species and/or subspecies, I hope to generate a H. curtipes model, literally by breeding backwards. Recent literature suggests that biodiversity in the Congo is threatened by 'slash and burn' clearing of forests and by increased economic demand for logging. Political chaos and civil turmoil in the newly established Democratic Republic of the Congo, formerly Zaire, over the past decade have severely retarded biological studies. Amphibians globally are declining at an unprecedented rate, data available on the remaining species in the Congo is inconclusive.
A special thank you to the following individuals and/or institutions.
Dr. George Rabb and staff, director The Chicago Zoological Park, USA
Mr. Lawrence Wallace, Herpetological Department Carolina Biological Supply, USA
Dr. Randon Feinsod, Exotics department The North Shore Animal Clinic, USA
Mr. David Cecere, The African Dwarf Frog Educational Website
The Department of Zoology and Marine Biology, University of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania
The Herpetological Department, The Bronx Zoo, USA
Dr. Stanley Sessions and staff, Biology Department The Hartwick College, USA
Mr. Peter Warny, The New York State Museum, USA
The Herpetological Department, The Museum of Natural History, USA
The Declining Amphibian Population Task Force, Department of Biology, The Open University, UK