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New Frog Species Found in New York City

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Scientists have found a new leopard frog species not in a remote rainforest but in the "wilds" of New York City.

For years, biologists mistook it for a more widespread variety of leopard frog.

Frog

In recently published results (from the University of California, Los Angeles; Rutgers University; the University of California, Davis and the University of Alabama) in the journal Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution, Brad Shaffer and other scientists used DNA data to compare the new frog to all other leopard frog species in the region. The researchers determined the frog is an entirely new species. The unnamed frog joins a crowd of more than a dozen distinct leopard frog species.

The newly identified wetland species likely once lived on Manhattan. It's now only known from a few nearby locations: Yankee Stadium in the Bronx is the center of its current range.

Feinberg suspected that the leopard-frog look-alike with the peculiar croak was a new creature hiding in plain sight.

Instead of the "long snore" or "rapid chuckle" he heard from other leopard frogs, this frog had a short, repetitive croak.

As far back as the late 1800s, scientists have speculated about these "odd" frogs.

 

These frogs have been so-called cryptic species: one species hidden within another because you can't tell them apart on sight. Thanks to molecular genetics, people are picking out species that would otherwise be ignored.

The results were clear-cut: the DNA was distinct, no matter how much the frogs looked alike.

The findings show that even in densely-populated, well-studied areas, there are still new discoveries to be made, said Shaffer.  And that the newly identified frogs appear to have a startlingly limited range.

The newly identified frogs have so far been found in scattered populations in northern New Jersey, southeastern mainland New York and on Staten Island.

Although they may extend into parts of Connecticut and northeastern Pennsylvania, evidence suggests they were once common on Long Island and other nearby regions.

They went extinct there in just the last few decades. "This raises conservation concerns that must be addressed," said ecologist Joanna Burger of Rutgers University.

 

Until scientists settle on a name for the frog, they refer to it as "Rana sp. nov.," meaning "new frog species."

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