New Species of Frog Found in NYC

Rana he newest species of leopard frog is called. (PHOTO CREDIT: Feinberg, J.A. et al/PLoS One)
Rana he newest species of leopard frog is called. (PHOTO CREDIT: Feinberg, J.A. et al/PLoS One)

If you wanted to find a new species of frog, the rainforest seems like a better place to look than the urban jungle. However, scientists have found a new species of frog living in and around New York City.

The new species, which biologists are calling the Atlantic Coast leopard frog, was hiding in plain sight. Besides its croak, the new species is nearly indistinguishable from several other frog species living in the area. As detailed today in PLoS ONE, the researchers were able to make the identification after comparing the DNA, appearance, and croaking noises of hundreds of frogs.

The authors, led by Jeremy Feinberg of Rutgers University, first announced their suspicions of the new species in 2012, when they reported that familiar-looking frogs with unfamiliar croaks were hopping around the wetlands near Yankee Stadium. Although the coloration of the Atlantic Coast leopard frog is very similar to that of other leopard frogs, its distinctive croak, which sounds like a simple, repeated “chuck,” sets it apart.

Biologists have debated the number of leopard frog species for nearly 250 years, and other scientists weren’t ready to declare a new species. Most dismissed the croak as a mutation in the known Northern or Southern leopard frog species. But now, Feinberg and colleagues say they have enough evidence, in DNA differences and acoustic analyses, to justify the new species designation. In order to declare that a frog’s genome is different enough to declare a new species, the researchers found a significant collection of gene variants that were not found in any of the other species of leopard frogs. Frogs use sound to set themselves apart, so the researchers analyzed the waveform of the new species’ croak to show that it had a different pitch, structure, and rhythm than other leopard frogs.

Click here to read more.

Nick Stockton

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