When I last posted about an animal with a name like this the ending was sad. As it usually will be, given the state of things. There are not enough Juliets, but that should not keep scientists from trying to make matches. As reported by the great science writer JoAnna Klein, who has written about some of nature’s great comeback stories and its unexpected cases of animals expressing affection, she had me at the headline:
Romeo the Frog Finds His Juliet. Their Courtship May Save a Species.
The lonely male in a Bolivian museum was thought to be the last Sehuencas water frog, but an expedition has found him a potential mate.
Romeo was made for love, as all animals are. But for years he couldn’t find it. It’s not like there was anything wrong with Romeo. Sure he’s shy, eats worms, lacks eyelashes and is 10 years old, at least. But he’s aged well, and he’s kind of a special guy.
Romeo is a Sehuencas water frog, once thought to be the last one on the planet. He lives alone in a tank at the Museo de Historia Natural Alcide d’Orbigny in Bolivia.
And there is more. In this same story as reported by National Public Radio (USA), I cannot be happy about the long-term macro situation, but the shorter-term micro situation for this Romeo looks like it may have a happy ending:
While Shakespeare’s Romeo spent only about two days banished in Mantua, away from his beloved Juliet, Romeo the frog has remained in complete isolation — sans love interest, cousins, friars or friends — living in a laboratory for the last 10 years. But that’s all about to change.
The world-famous amphibian was believed to have been the last of his kind – a Bolivian Sehuencas water frog (Telmatobius yuracare) – and lived under the protection of researchers at the Museo de Historia Natural Alcide d’Orbigny in Cochabamba City. They have made it their mission to find Romeo a special lady friend who might respond positively to his plaintive mating calls and help save the species from becoming extinct.
Year after year, scientist scoured Bolivia’s cloud forests for signs of other googly-eyed, orange-bellied Sehuencas, but they’ve always come up empty, until recently.On Tuesday, the museum’s chief of herpetology, Teresa Camacho Badani, announced that after days of searching, her expedition team had found five healthy frogs, including two females. One is a little young for the frog-world’s hottest bachelor, but the second, named Juliet (naturally), appears to be an ideal match of reproductive age.
“The entire team was wet and tired, but we decided to look in one more stream before returning to the camp. We weren’t too hopeful because we didn’t have much room to explore—there was a waterfall at the end of the stream that would stop us from moving forward,” Camacho told Global Wildlife Conservation, which has partnered with the museum to find a girlfriend for Romeo.
Despite their skepticism, Camacho said, they gave it another go. “I got into the pond while the water splashed all over me and dove my hands into the bottom of the pond, where I managed to catch the frog. When I pulled it out, I saw an orange belly and suddenly realized that what I had in my hands was the long-awaited Sehuencas Water Frog,” she recalled.
That particular slippery creature was a male Sehuencas but within a couple of days the team found a handful of his companions in the same pond. It is the first time since Romeo was captured by Camacho in 2008 that the species had been spotted in the wild.
“It was an incredible feeling!” Camacho said.
It appears Romeo (or at least the human behind his Twitter account) is thrilled about the discovery, too. He’s posted a deluge of thirsty messages on Twitter…
Read the whole story here.