Your Weekly Attenborough: Pristimantis attenboroughi

By Nathaniel Scharping | December 15, 2017 4:18 pm
Attenborough's rubber tree frog. (Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Pristimantis attenboroughi (Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Sir David Frederick Attenborough, OM, CH, CVO, CBE, FRS, FLS, FZS, FSA, is the best. That sounds like an opinion, but it’s pretty much objective fact at this point. The British broadcaster and naturalist has been narrating the wonders of the natural world for over 50 years now, traveling to almost every country on Earth to do so.

His crowning achievement is a massive documentary series known simply as the Life collection. Thirteen separate series filmed over the course of 20 years take on the entirety of life on Earth (and maybe in the universe, who knows), and do a pretty damn good job of it too. It’s the gold standard for nature documentaries — for a breakdown of all 79 episodes, check out Ed Yong’s labor of love here.

(Credit: dominika zarzycka/Shutterstock)

(Credit: dominika zarzycka/Shutterstock)

Planet Earth, the BBC’s epic, award-winning take on Earth’s wildlife, and the first ever to be filmed in high-definition introduced a whole new generation to our blue marble, and, more importantly, to David Attenborough. (No offense to Sigourney Weaver, but the British version is far superior). Now 91, Attenborough hasn’t stopped bringing nature to our televisions, narrating the (also award-winning) follow-up documentary Planet Earth II last year.

Whether he’s reverently recounting the singing prowess of the Lyrebird or just hanging out with a polar bear, Attenborough chronicles planet Earth with warmth, wit, humility and keen-eyed observational skills. He’s inspired a generation (and probably more) of biologists, ecologists, and simple nature lovers to explore and protect the bounty of life that teems across our world.

And they’ve paid fitting tribute.

There are well over a dozen species and genera named in honor of David Attenborough, encompassing everything from carnivorous plants to echidnas to Mesozoic reptiles. In the spirit of the great man’s life and work, I’d like to introduce the world to his many namesakes. Look back every week (or so) for another species enshrined in the scientific literature that proudly carries the Attenborough name.

I’m going to start off with a little tree frog from Peru. Attenborough’s rubber frog, Pristimantis attenboroughi, was reported just this year by a pair of scientists in the U.S. It’s tiny, less than an inch long, and lives up in the Peruvian highlands. It actually looks much like another frog species from the region, and it took a genetic comparison to sort the whole thing out. It doesn’t produce tadpoles, like most frogs do; the females instead closely guard clutches of eggs until they hatch.

Variations of the male Pristimantis attenboroughi. (Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Though some of its habitat is protected, the frogs are probably in trouble, the authors write, threatened by fungal infections, climate change and man-made fires.

Attenborough himself was reportedly “thrilled” to hear about the frog’s discovery and naming, reports The Independent. The frog reminded him of a tree frog he himself had as a child, he says.

Bonus Attenborough fact of the week:

There is a Facebook page dedicated to just his voice. It has over 115,000 likes.


CATEGORIZED UNDER: Living World, top posts
  • Erik Bosma

    No mention that Sir David just lost his brother Richard at age 90 last week. Another very talented Attenborough. Condolences from a fan, Sir Dave. Hope you see at least a 100 (or more) because I can’t wait for a Blue Planet 3.

    • Mark Brandon

      Lord Richard Attenborough died in August 2014.

      • Erik Bosma

        Guess I should have checked the date as I usually do. Whoops…

        • Erik Bosma

          I got that from BBC who are notorious for linking old stories to new headlines. It happens often when I click on a sub-heading in a new BBC article to find what turns out to be an old story. Must be an automatic glitch with their HTML editor just like all the mis-spellings these days due to auto-correct.

          • OWilson

            Or, alternately, Fake News!

            BBC “IS” journalism!

            They do not make repeated silly mistakes!

            Call it out, anywhere you see it! :)

  • OWilson

    I’m a big fan of his nature films, but like a lot of entertainment celebrities he is seduced into thinking that this wonderful planet and its wonderful creatures that have been evolving for billions and billions of years, may all end in his own particular lifetime.

    Nobody isTHAT special, not even Sir David! :)

    I guess it asuages a certain amount of guilt over how much he is paid to bring us the bad news about global warming!


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