Scientists in the Field
Spiral Notebook
New frog species from the wilds of…New York City!
by Pamela Turner
November 10, 2014
 

Yes, that’s right: New York City. When a new species is discovered, you expect to hear that it lives in some remote jungle, not Central Park. But a group of scientists just announced that they found a new type of leopard frog living in the middle of a metropolis.

Previously two kinds of leopard frogs, the southern and the northern, were believed to live in the U.S. (The northern leopard frog (R. pipiens) is the subject of my Scientists in the Field book, The Frog Scientists). But six years ago a researcher heard a rather odd frog call on Staten Island, near the Statue of Liberty. It wasn’t quite like the calls of other male leopard frogs. Curiosity was piqued.

To uncover the new species, the scientists collected and analyzed three different kinds of data. The first is what you would expect: they looked very carefully at dozens of leopard frogs. One group was slightly different, with fewer and smaller spots on the back. Check.

Secondly, the scientists took genetic samples from all the frogs. Those frogs with fewer and smaller spots were genetically distinct. Check.

Lastly, the scientists circled back to that oddball frog call. They identified populations of the new frogs in New Jersey and New York, recording the males’ mating calls, and compared the calls (using something called “bioacoustic analysis”) to the calls of northern leopard frogs. The calls were distinctly different. Check.

So hello, Rana kauffeldi, a.k.a. the Atlantic Coast Leopard Frog! Sorry it took us so long to notice you.

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About Pamela Turner

Pamela S. Turner lives in Oakland, California with her children and her husband. She has a B.A. in social science from UCAL-Irvine and a Master’s of public health from UCAL-Berkeley. She has written numerous books for young readers, including Hachiko and the Scientists in the Field titles Gorilla Doctors: Saving Endangered Great Apes, The Frog Scientist, Project Seahorse, The Dolphins of Shark Bay and her forthcoming work, Crow Smarts. Visit her website at pamelasturner.com.

 

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