New Leopard Frog Species Discovered in New York CityPublished March 16, 2012
Northern Leopard Frog: Getty Images
A new species of leopard frog was discovered hidden in plain sight, within view of New York City.
It may seem impossible that any new species are still out there, unrecognized−certainly not those that live in the ponds and marshes of New York and New Jersey.
Remote forests or the depths of the ocean seem much more prone to this type of thing.
But a brand new species of leopard frog was found recently by a team of biologists from UCLA, Rutgers, UC Davis, and the University of Alabama, working together.
The leopard frog’s croak tipped them off.
"When I first heard these frogs calling, it was so different, I knew something was very off," said Rutgers doctoral candidate Jeremy Feinberg of the frog’s short, repetitive croak. Other area leopard frogs have more of a long snore or rapid chuckle.
"It’s what we call a cryptic species: one species hidden within another because we can’t tell them apart on sight,” he says.
With molecular genetics research, available in the journal "Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution," the scientists used DNA to compare the new frog to all other leopard frog species in the region, and determined that it is an entirely new species, soon to be named by the researchers.
"This shows that even in the largest city in the U.S. there are still new and important species waiting to be discovered that could be lost without conservation," said UCLA Professor Brad Shaffer, from UCLA’s Institute of the Environment and Sustainability.
And whether you’re a frog fan or not, these amphibians are important to monitor, since they are often the first to be affected by environmental threats like pesticides and parasites.
Even this new species, which seems to have hung on unnoticed, once had a much wider distribution: onto parts of Manhattan and Long Island.
"You feel like you’ve uncovered something unique about the world that’s never been known before," says Shaffer.
Do you think it's important for scientists to keep seeking new species, in order to protect them?