Although New York is one of the most densely populated places on Earth, nature still surprises us in the most pleasant of ways. Biologists have discovered a new species of leopard frog in the city.
This new leopard frog is the second new frog species discovered in the continental United States for the past 30 years, and managed to remain hidden in plain sight although the city has a population of 8.4 million.
“It’s a pretty unique event,”
said Jeremy Feinberg, Rutgers University ecologist and part of the research team who made the find.
The discovery, made public by National Geographic, revealed the existence of the new amphibian which had already been reported two years ago in the journal Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution by Feinberg and his colleagues, Louisiana State University geneticist Catherine Newman, fellow Rutgers ecologist Joanna Burger, University of Alabama biologist Leslie Rissler, and biologist Brad Shaffer of the University of California.
However, at that time, the team of biologists had only focused their work on the genetic traits and the uniqueness of the then-unnamed frog, which they had considered a southern leopard frog.
However, on Wednesday the study was published in PLOS One, describing exactly what makes the New Yorker frog so unique that it deserves its own species designation. It was named, Rana kauffeldi, after Carl Kauffeld, the herpetologist who speculated that a yet-unidentified frog might reside in New York City.
With distinctive spots on its skin, the R. kauffeldi has a most revealing characteristic: its males’ mating calls. According to researchers, it is a single-note unpulsed chuck, unlike what snore-like calls and pulsing other leopard frog species in the region use.
It is precisely this mating call that led biologists to the new frog, Feinberg said. As the team was conducting field studies, they would hear this unusual “chuck” above the pulses, which rarely occurred in the same habitat. They then concluded that the R. Kauffeldi predominated in open-canopied coastal marshes, where, as Feinberg describes, you can almost smell the ocean.
The new frog species breeds for just a few weeks each year and within brief time, their mating calls are downed by the sound of spring peepers.
“That helps keep them hidden. You have to win the jackpot to hear them.”
R. Kauffeldi is currently restricted to Staten Island, where wetland development is a threat.
“There’s one population in Staten Island where all it would take is filling in one pond, and it would be gone,”