03/19/12

If You Can Make It Here: New frog species discovered in NYC

Last week’s discovery of a new frog species in New York City was one of our favorite recent amphibian news stories. The story was picked up by newspapers both across the country and worldwide, from the BBC to the News Pakistan. We especially liked the story, not only because we are both native New Yorkers, born within an hour’s drive of where this frog was discovered, but also because it was discovered by a scientist from New Jersey (our adopted state.)

So here’s the story, as reported by the New York Times and New Jersey Newsroom.com:

While doing research in Staten Island (one of New York City’s boroughs) in 2009, Jeremy A. Feinberg, a doctoral candidate in ecology and evolution at Rutgers University, heard an unusual frog call.  Instead of the “long snore” or “rapid chuckle” he would normally expect from a  leopard frog, he heard instead a short, repetitive croak. Feinberg suspected this frog might be a new species. He teamed up with Cathy Newman, a geneticist completing a master’s degree in genetics at the University of Alabama, to test the frog’s DNA.

Jeremy Feinberg

Newman compared this frog’s DNA with the DNA of southern and northern leopard frogs, which range widely north and south of New York City. These frogs look quite similar to each other, but the results indicated that this frog’s lineage was genetically distinct.

Newly discovered leopard frog in NYC. Photo by Brian Curry, Rutgers University

Feinberg believes this leopard frog once inhabited Manhattan and the other boroughs. He has found specimens in the Meadowlands and the Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge in New Jersey, as well as in Putnam and Orange Counties in New York. Some frogs were also collected in central Connecticut.

What’s unusual about this finding is that new frog species are usually found in the remote rainforests of Indonesia and similar places, and not within the shadow of one of the world’s most densely populated urban areas.

The New York Times has asked readers to come up with a name for this new frog. They have listed some attributes of this frog to give you inspiration for a name, including the fact that the geographic center of the frog’s range is Yankee Stadium in the Bronx.

How about The Green Bomber? After all, there are Yankee fans all over the tri-state area.

More information about the discovery:

The findings are to be published in an issue of the journal Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution, but are currently available online. Much of the genetic analysis was performed in Professor  H. Bradley Shaffer’s laboratory at the University of California at Davis, where he worked until recently.

Photo of Jeremy Feinberg, courtesy of New Jersey Newsroom.com

01/13/12

World's Smallest Frog Discovered

Researchers have discovered two species of what may be the world’s smallest frog species. As described in the journal PloS ONE, these new species of mini, terrestrial frogs were found on the island of New Guinea, and represent not only the smallest known frog but possibly also the smallest known vertebrate species (animal with a backbone).  Both new species are members of the recently described genus Paedophryne, the four species of which are among the ten smallest known frog species. They attain an average body size of only 7.7 mm (range 7.0–8.0 mm), less than the size of an M&M.

Photo courtesy Louisiana State University/PloS ONE

The researchers believe that the frogs have evolved their teeny size in a unique ecological niche: the leaf litter of tropical forests that remains moist year round. The frogs eat even tinier creatures (mites etc) that most other frogs don’t exploit. They are well camouflaged among leaves on the forest floor, and have evolved calls resembling those of insects.

According to the researchers, other places in the world that also feature dense, moist leaf litter tend to possess such small frog species, indicating that amphibians are well placed to occupy this ecological niche.

Before the Paedophrynes were found, the title of “world’s smallest frog” was bestowed on the Brazilian gold frog (Brachycephalus didactylus) and its slightly larger Cuban relative, the Monte Iberia Eleuth (Eleutherodactylus iberia). They both measure less than 1cm long.

For more information:

Rittmeyer EN , Allison A , Gründler MC , Thompson DK , Austin CC , 2012 Ecological Guild Evolution and the Discovery of the World’s Smallest Vertebrate. PLoS ONE

12/1/11

The Painted Hula: A Frog Hits Prime Time

The amphibian crisis is an environmental issue that hasn’t really hit the mainstream yet. Most people we talk to are surprised to hear that an entire class of animals is in deep trouble, with one-third of amphibian species facing extinction. So we were very happy when Rachel Maddow did a piece two weeks ago on her show about the newly discovered Hula painted frog (Discoglossus nigriventer) (see video below).

painted hula frog from Y Net News

Painted Hula Frog from Y Net News Website

Here’s the story of the hula painted frog, from Conservation International’s website:

The frog was discovered in Israel’s Lake Hula, one of the world’s oldest documented lakes, which provided fertile hunting and fishing grounds for humans for tens of thousands of years.

In the early 1950s, the lake and surrounding marshes were drained as a way of tackling malaria. But the costs for doing this were high. Among other environmental problems, draining the lake led to the near extinction of an entire ecosystem and the unique endemic fauna of the lake, including the Hula painted frog. Ironically, species such as the painted frog feed on mosquitoes that carry malaria.

Concern over the draining of Hula grew among the people of Israel, leading to the formation of the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel and a movement to reflood the Hula Valley. It took 40 years for the protesters’ voices to be heard, but in the mid 1990s, parts of the valley were reflooded.

While much of the ecosystem was restored, not all species re-appeared and it was believed to be too late for the Hula painted frog; the species was declared extinct in 1996 by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The frog became a poignant symbol for extinction in Israel.

Only three adult Hula painted frogs had ever been found. Two of these were collected into captivity in the 1940s, but the larger one ate the smaller one, leaving just one specimen to remember the species by.

The enigmatic frog was selected as one of the “top ten” species during the Search for Lost Frogs last year, highlighting the global importance of this species. It was lost but not forgotten.

Recently, however, Nature and Parks Authority warden Yoram Malka was conducting his routine patrol of the Hula Nature Reserve when something jumped from under him. He lunged after it and caught it: he was holding in his hand the first Hula painted frog seen since the 1950s.

To quote the CI site:

This rediscovery is the icing on the cake of what is a major victory for conservation in Israel: the restoration of a rare and valuable ecosystem. Because Israel has given the Hula Valley a second chance to thrive, the Hula frog has gone from being a symbol of extinction to a symbol of resilience.

Mazel tov, Dr. Moore! And thanks, Rachel, for reporting the story.

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

09/26/11

Is it a Frog or a Cat?: Newly Discovered Amphibians in India

At Frogs Are Green, we always enjoy the stories of newly discovered frog species and the re-discovery of frog species thought to be extinct. These stories counterbalance some of the less optimistic news stories about amphibians these days.

Recently in India, twelve new frog species were discovered, and three species were rediscovered. Scientists with Global Wildlife Conservation, led by biologist Sathyabhama Das Biju of the University of Delhi, spent years searching at night in the forests of Western Ghats, in Kerala, listening for frog calls.

Wayanad Night Frog India

Wayand Night Frog. Photo by Sathyabhama Das Biju/Global Wildlife Conservation from NationalGeographic.com

Some of the newly discovered frogs include:

The Meowing Night Frog (Nyctibatrachus poocha): Its croak sounds more like a cat than a frog.

The Jog’s Night Frog (Nyctibatrachus jog): Both males and females look after the eggs.

The Wayanad Night Frog (Nyctibatrachus grandis): It grows to about the size of a baseball and leaps from rock to rock.

The Coorg night frog (Nyctibatrachus sanctipalustris): This frog was described 91 years ago and was thought to be extinct, but has now been rediscovered.

The discoveries were published in the latest issue of international taxonomy journal Zootaxa, bringing the known number of frog species in India to 336.

Many of the newly found frogs in India are rare and are living in just a single area and so are especially vulnerable and will need rigorous protection. But most conservation in India is focused on the two most charismatic animals – the elephant and the tiger. According to Dr. Biju, there is little interest in amphibians, not much funding, and frog research is not easy.

In some parts of India, however, frogs are revered. They symbolize rain and prosperity and the end of a drought. We hope that these amazing amphibians are similarly revered and get the protection they need.

To see a slideshow of the frogs on Huffington Post, click here.

Thank you to Frogs Are Green friend Dana Breaux Kennedy for pointing us to the article about the newly discovered frogs in India.