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


Northern Leopard Frog: Hidden in the Grass

Over Memorial Day, my family and I explored Frotenac Provincial Park in southeastern Ontario, Canada. We called this park Frog Heaven because it was full of swamps, marshes, and  frogs ponds.

I saw a few bullfrogs, but my son spotted what I’m pretty sure is a Northern Leopard Frog (any herpetologists out there who would like to confirm this for me?) Below are a few photos: the leopard frog perfectly camouflaged and the same frog close up. The frog did not jump away when it sensed us nearby, but sat frozen in place—the better to hide from a predator. But that gave us the opportunity to take lots of pictures of it.

Frotenac Provincial Park, Ontario, Canada. Photo by Mary Jo Rhodes

Northern Leopard Frog, camouflaged. Photo by Mary Jo Rhodes

Northern Leopard Frog close up. Photo by Mary Jo Rhodes

Leopard frogs, sometimes called meadow frogs, are found from southern Canada to northern Mexico. They are usually green or brown with dark spots. Northern Leopard frogs live in permanent ponds, swamps, marshes, and slow-moving streams throughout forest. Because they are especially sensitive to chemical pollutants, their numbers have declined since the 1970s due to acid rain and deforestation. You can read more about them and hear their distinctive snore-like call on eNature.

Please keep your eye out for frogs or other amphibians in your travels this summer. You might want to take pictures of them and submit them to the second annual Frogs Are Green photo contest (details to come later this week)!