New frog species discovery in Ethiopia


This 2010 video is called Ethiopia Welo Opal Frog Carving.

From New York University in the USA:

New frog species found on remote Ethiopian mountain

February 12, 2019

Summary: A new species of puddle frog (order: Anura, family: Phynobatrachidae, genus: Phrynobatrachus), has just been discovered at the unexplored and isolated Bibita Mountain in southwestern Ethiopia. The research team named the new species Phrynobatrachus bibita sp. nov., or Bibita Mountain dwarf puddle frog, inspired by its home.

In summer 2018, NYU Abu Dhabi Postdoctoral Associates Sandra Goutte and Jacobo Reyes-Velasco explored an isolated mountain in southwestern Ethiopia where some of the last primary forest of the country remains. Bibita Mountain was under the radars of the team for several years due to its isolation and because no other zoologist had ever explored it before.

“Untouched, isolated, and unexplored: it had all the elements to spike our interest,” says Dr. Reyes-Velasco, who initiated the exploration of the mountain. “We tried to reach Bibita in a previous expedition in 2016 without success. Last summer, we used a different route that brought us to higher elevation,” he added.

Their paper, published in ZooKeys journal, reports that the new, tiny frog, 17 mm for males and 20 mm for females, is unique among Ethiopian puddle frogs. Among other morphological features, a slender body with long legs, elongated fingers and toes, and a golden coloration, set this frog apart from its closest relatives.

Phrynobatrachus bibita female“When we looked at the frogs, it was obvious that we had found a new species, they look so different from any Ethiopian species we had ever seen before!” explains Dr. Goutte.

Back in NYU Abu Dhabi, the research team sequenced tissue samples from the new species and discovered that Phrynobatrachus bibita sp. nov. is genetically different from any frog species in the region.

“The discovery of such a genetically distinct species in only a couple of days in this mountain is the perfect demonstration of how important it is to assess the biodiversity of this type of places. The Bibita Mountain probably has many more unknown species that await our discovery; it is essential for biologists to discover them in order to protect them and their habitat properly,” explains NYU Abu Dhabi Program Head of Biology and the paper’s lead researcher Stéphane Boissinot, who has been working on Ethiopian frogs since 2010.

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Bolivian frogs saved from extinction?


This 15 January 2019 video says about itself:

A team from Global Wildlife Conservation and the Museo D’orbigny Alcide in Bolivia embark on a search for [a mate for] Romeo, the last known Sehuencas Water Frog, in a bid to save the species from extinction.

By David Moye, 15 January 2019:

Romeo, The World’s Loneliest Frog, May Have Finally Found His Juliet

Bolivian biologists spent 10 years looking for a mate for a lovelorn frog they feared was the last of his kind.

A frog that had been believed to be the last of its kind may finally find love before he, uh, croaks.

Romeo, a Sehuencas water frog captured 10 years ago in Bolivia, has spent the past decade in isolation at Bolivia’s Cochabamba Natural History Museum, sometimes making unanswered mating calls. Staff biologists have been trying to find him a mate in hopes of boosting the species’ numbers, according to the BBC. 

It’s been a lonely decade for Romeo, and the matchmaking biologists attempted some unusual methods, including creating a Match.com profile last year, according to Smithsonian Magazine.

But unlike Shakespeare’s human Romeo, this lovelorn amphibian may get his happy ending.

Scientists who recently searched a remote Bolivian cloud forest managed to find five other Sehuencas water frogs, including a female that has been named ”Juliet”, according to Yahoo.

Expedition leader Teresa Camacho Badani of the Museo de Historia Natural Alcide d’Orbigny in Cochabamba City admitted this may be a case of opposites attracting.

“Romeo is really calm and relaxed and doesn’t move a whole lot,” Camacho Badini told the BBC. Juliet, she said, is “really energetic, she swims a lot and she eats a lot and sometimes she tries to escape.”

Romeo and Juliet haven’t actually gone out on the frog equivalent of a first date. Currently, Juliet and the other recently captured frogs are being quarantined so they acclimate to their new home, according to ZMEScience.com.

In addition, the froggy yentas want to make sure none of them are affected by chytridiomycosis, an infectious disease that has claimed most of the wild population.

“We do not want Romeo to get sick on his first date! When the treatment is finished, we can finally give Romeo what we hope is a romantic encounter with his Juliet”, Camacho Badani said.

This rediscovered Bolivian frog species survived deadly chytrid fungus. The species was feared to be extinct, except for one lonely male. By Jeremy Rehm, 6:00am, January 17, 2019.

New treefrog species discovery in Ecuadorian Andes


Variation in life of Hyloscirtus hillisi sp. n. from Reserva Biológica El Quimi. A QCAZ 68649 (adult female, holotype, SVL = 65.78 mm) B QCAZ 68646 (subadult female, SVL = 48.55 mm) C not collected

From ScienceDaily:

Extraordinary treefrog discovered in the Andes of Ecuador

January 3, 2019

Summary: A dazzling new species of treefrog was discovered at a remote tabletop mountain in the Ecuadorian Andes. The new species has an extraordinary characteristic, the presence of claw-like appendages at the base of the thumbs.

A new treefrog species was discovered during a two-week expedition to a remote tabletop mountain at Cordillera del Cóndor, a largely unexplored range in the eastern Andes.

“To reach the tabletop, we walked two days along a steep terrain. Then, between sweat and exhaustion, we arrived to the tabletop where we found a dwarf forest. The rivers had blackwater and the frogs were sitting along them, on branches of brown shrubs similar in color to the frogs’ own. The frogs were difficult to find, because they blended with their background,” Alex Achig, one of the field biologists who discovered the new species comments on the hardships of the expedition.

Curiously, the frog has an extraordinary, enlarged claw-like structure located at the base of the thumb. Its function is unknown, but it could be that it is used either as a defence against predators or as a weapon in fights between competing males.

Having conducted analyses of genetic and morphologic data, scientists Santiago R. Ron, Marcel Caminer, Andrea Varela, and Diego Almeida from the Catholic University of Ecuador concluded that the frog represented a previously unknown species. It was recently described in the open-access journal ZooKeys.

The species name, Hyloscirtus hillisi, honors Dr. David Hillis, a member of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, who discovered three closely related frog species in the same genus in the 1980s, while conducting a series of field trips to the Andes of southern Ecuador. Throughout his career, Dr. Hillis has made significant contributions to the knowledge of Andean amphibians and reptiles.

Despite being newly described, Hyloscirtus hillisi is already at risk of extinction. It has a small distribution range near a large-scale mining operation carried out by a Chinese company. Habitat destruction in the region has been recently documented by the NGO Amazon Conservation.

Male Borneo frogs take care of tadpoles


This 16 October 2018 video from the USA says about itself:

Johana Goyes-Vallejos (UConn and KU): Do Female Frogs Call?

Dr. Johana Goyes-Vallejos discovers that in the smooth guardian frog of Borneo, female frogs call.

In frog species, typically male frogs call, while females stay silent. Dr. Johana Goyes-Vallejos shows that in the smooth guardian frog of Borneo (Limnonectes palavanensis) this is not the case and that female frogs call, too, producing spontaneous vocalizations to attract males. Dr. Goyes-Vallejos’ discovery that female frogs call suggests that L. palavanensis exhibits a reversal in calling behavior and possibly a sex-role-reversed mating system, which would be the first ever observed in a frog species.

Speaker Biography: Johana Goyes Vallejos received her bachelor’s degree in Biology from Universidad del Valle, in Cali, Colombia. For her Ph.D., she joined the lab of Dr. Kentwood Wells in the Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Department at the University of Connecticut. Johana’s research interests include sexual selection and amphibian mating systems (frogs and toads), with a particular interest in species that exhibit parental care behavior.

For her dissertation work, she focused on elucidating the mating system of the smooth guardian frog of Borneo (Limnonectes palavanensis), an unusual species about which very little was known when she began her work. Using a combination of extensive fieldwork, bioacoustics, and methods in behavioral ecology and animal communication, Johana described behaviors of this species that were previously unknown to science. When not chasing frogs in remote forests around the world, Johana enjoys salsa dancing, reading non-scientific books, and baking.

From the University of Kansas in the USA:

Extraordinary ‘faithful father’ revealed by study of smooth guardian frog of Borneo

December 18, 2018

Stay-at-home dads might find their spirit animal in the smooth guardian frog of Borneo. A new pair of research papers authored by an investigator at the University of Kansas shows the male of the smooth guardian frog species (Limnonectes palavanensis) is a kind of amphibian “Mr. Mom” — an exemplar of male parental care in the animal kingdom.

“Sex-role reversal is basically when a male takes the role that you usually see with females in other species”, said Johana Goyes Vallejos, a postdoctoral research associate with the Herpetology Division at KU’s Biodiversity Institute, who led both studies. “The male provides care for the offspring. The females do the displaying part — like a peacock that has beautiful feathers — the female has those ornaments or behaviors you usually see with males.”

The papers reflect three years’ worth of fieldwork in Borneo, a vast island in the southwestern Pacific Ocean split among the nations of Malaysia, Brunei and Indonesia. Goyes Vallejos observed the frogs both in the wild and in outdoor enclosures at a field station.

In one of the papers, published in the Journal of Natural History, Goyes Vallejos offers new details about the prolonged parental duties of the male smooth guardian frog, behavior that had been studied very little until now. “In frogs, male parenting is more common”, said Goyes Vallejos. “But in other frog species, males take care of eggs and offspring, but they continue to call to attract other females — they aren’t missing opportunities to mate with females just because they have a clutch of eggs. So, sometimes they have two or three clutches of eggs from different females. But in the case of the smooth guardian frog, they only take care of one clutch and they don’t call at that time — they aren’t interested in attracting other females; they’re very faithful fathers. That’s unusual. Clearly, other frog species can do it, so why don’t they? There’s some reversal in the sex roles where the father becomes a very devoted parent while the female can go on to mate multiple times.”

According to the KU researcher, the smooth guardian frogs are primarily terrestrial, living in the leaf litter on the floor of the tropical rainforest where they’re most active at night, feeding on insects and other arthropods.

“Males produce advertisement calls to attract females to their location”, said Goyes Vallejos. “When females approach, if they like each other, they have a mating ritual. The female lays 15 to 20 eggs on the ground, then the male is the one that stays with the clutch of eggs and the female takes off — possibly to mate with other males. The males stay with the eggs for 11 days on average, and when they hatch the tadpoles scramble on the back of the male. The male takes them throughout the forest to find small pools to be deposited where they can finish their development.”

In the second paper, published in the journal Ethology, Goyes Vallejos wanted to know more about the kinds of strategies males used for depositing the tadpoles in these pools.

“They can be small puddles left by the rain, a fallen log or a tree stump filled with water — really any small body of water,” she said. “We don’t know for sure, but it generally takes between three to four weeks for tadpoles to become frogs.”

For the first half of the study, Goyes Vallejos observed male frogs in the study area as they searched for naturally available pools where their piggybacking tadpoles could develop into fully fledged frogs.

“I found they were very sparse and they couldn’t find places where they could deposit tadpoles”, she said. “This told me these tadpole pools are very rare and the frogs had to travel a long time. They can’t put them anywhere — it needs to have a lot of food; they feed on the little algae that grow on the fallen leaves in the bottom of the water. And it must be permanent enough so the tadpoles have time to develop. These places are scarce. The males are on a mission — they need to find these pools.”

For the second half of the study, the KU researcher created artificial pools in the forest floor that each was a few inches deep and about the diameter of a dinner plate — perfect nurseries for tadpoles. She wanted to see if, given identical pools, other factors might influence the male guardian frogs’ pool-selection process.

“I measured different variables like how much leaf litter was around, how steep was the terrain, and how much coverage from the forest did it have?” said Goyes Vallejos. “I found it was more probable for a male to deposit his tadpoles on flatter rather than steep terrain. My explanation was that possibly males were looking for places that would hold water — you wouldn’t go places where pools empty out because the terrain is too steep and the tadpoles would be washed out under heavy rains, which are very common in the rainforest. Instead, they looked for places permanent enough for tadpoles to develop to completion.”

Using the artificial pools for choice experiments, the KU researcher sought to find out if the presence of other organisms — predators or competitors — affected frogs’ selection of tadpole pools.

“In most of the literature on frogs, you find that parents avoid competitors, and especially predators, at all costs, so that was my prediction”, Goyes Vallejos said. “In my case, the predator was dragonfly larvae — quintessential tadpole predators. The experiment consisted of having two artificial pools, one next to the other. One had predators, and one didn’t. I looked to see if the male would avoid predators, and I expected males would deposit tadpoles in the empty pools without the predator. I was very surprised when I found they actually split the number of tadpoles between two pools. Say he had 14 tadpoles — then he would put seven in one and seven in the other. That was the most common strategy. In 12 deposition events I recorded, five out of 12 times they deposited the tadpoles split the number of tadpoles in both pools.”

In the other experiment, Goyes Vallejos wanted to see if tadpoles of the same species already in one pool would affect deposition of new tadpoles.

“Maybe they’d see them as competitors or maybe see them as a sign they were safe there”, she said. “In this case as well, the males split the tadpoles in the two pools — it didn’t matter if there were tadpoles of same species or predators present in the pool — they split them between the pools.

Goyes Vallejos said the experiments showed “the splitting behavior is the same as not putting all your tadpoles in one basket.”

“If these pools aren’t very common, and if you find them, you need to take advantage of this resource,” she said. “Presumably, the males divide the number of tadpoles in different pools and hope that at least one pool will be permanent enough for the tadpoles to develop into frogs. It doesn’t matter if a predator is in there — try to avoid it. It’s better to have someplace for your tadpoles than no place at all. Tadpoles don’t move a lot, so maybe they’re relying on that behavior not to be affected by predators. The alternative is the males weren’t aware there was a predator, but typically, frogs are good at detecting predators in the water. Those are a matter for further study, but in general, they’re trying to find as many places as possible to deposit tadpoles.”

Goyes Vallejos, who grew up in the mountains of southwest Colombia, became interested in frog research after earning her undergraduate degree in her home country when she had an opportunity to study frog signaling at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama.

“I fell in love with them,” she said. “I was blown away by the diversity of frogs, how they vocalize and all the different strategies they have to find each other and mate. One thing led to another, I moved to Connecticut to earn my Ph.D. at the University of Connecticut, and during that time I spent several years in the jungles of Borneo looking for frogs.”

Panamanian city frogs more attractive


This February 2018 video from the USA says about itself:

The Túngara Frog‘s “Taste For the Beautiful”

Department of Integrative Biology faculty member Michael J. Ryan discusses animal sexual selection and evolution in his new book “A Taste for the Beautiful”. Ryan is the Clark Hubbs Regents Professor in Zoology at The University of Texas at Austin and a Senior Research Associate at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama. He is a leading researcher in the fields of sexual selection, mate choice, and animal communication.

From the University of Texas at Austin in the USA:

Females prefer city frogs’ tunes

December 10, 2018

Urban sophistication has real sex appeal — at least if you’re a Central American amphibian. Male frogs in cities are more attractive to females than their forest-frog counterparts, according to a new study published in Nature Ecology and Evolution.

Frogs in urban areas have more conspicuous and complex vocal calls, in part because they have fewer predators than those in natural habitats, say scientists from Vrije Universiteit (VU) in the Netherlands, The University of Texas at Austin, Purdue University and the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama.

University of Texas at Austin professor of integrative biology Mike Ryan joined team leader Wouter Halfwerk and colleagues to investigate how city life has altered the signaling behavior of male túngara frogs. The trappings of cities often interfere with animal communication, as noise and light pollution affect the visual and auditory signals animals use to attract mates. Halfwerk previously has published work showing how urbanization affects birdsong in Europe.

The research team recorded the characteristic ‘chuck’ calls made by the one-inch frogs living in forests near the Panama Canal and in nearby human-disturbed areas, including small towns and cities. They found that the urban males would call more often and with greater call complexity, meaning they made more of the ‘chuck’ sounds that females prefer, compared to the frogs in the forest. The authors played back both calls to female frogs in a lab, and they discovered that three-quarters of the females were more attracted to the complex urban calls, compared to the simpler forest calls.

“In the forest, these more attractive calls have a higher cost,” Ryan explained. “The sound can attract frog-eating bats and bloodsucking midges.”

Evolution may select for the trait that allows the frogs to make more complex vocal calls in cities and towns, where the eavesdropping predators are scarcer there than in the forest. To help test this idea, the researchers examined what would happen when they moved urban frogs into forest habitats and forest frogs into urban habitats. It turned out that the urban frogs were able to actively reduce the complexity of their calls in the new environment, but forest frogs couldn’t make the switch to making their calls more complex to attract females.

Ryan, his graduate students and colleagues have been studying sexual selection and communication in the túngara frog for decades. His 2018 popular science book A Taste for the Beautiful describes how males of this species and other species have evolved over the years to attract more females.

Brazilian tree frogs parenting, new study


This June 2015 video says about itself:

7 Tiny Frogs Found on 7 Brazilian Mountains

Researchers in Brazil discovered seven never-before-seen species of Brachycephalus frog on seven different mountains in the Atlantic forest.

From PLOS:

Not too big, not too small: Tree frogs choose pools that are just right

Frogs breeding in pools of water on leaves face trade-off between drying out and repelling predators

December 5, 2018

Frogs that raise their young in tiny pools of water that collect on plant leaves must make a delicate trade-off between the risk of drying out and the risk of being eaten, according to a study publishing December 5 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Mirco Solé from the Universidade Estadual de Santa Cruz in Bahia, Brazil and colleagues.

The temporary pools of water trapped by the leaf rosette of some plants in the Bromeliaceae family are used by a variety of creatures as a source of prey, water and shelter — one example is the Broad-snout casque-headed Tree Frog (Aparasphenodon arapapa) which uses the water ‘tanks’ of bromeliad plants as a place to mate and rear its tadpoles. To understand how the frogs choose the right spot, the researchers measured the characteristics, including size, water level, and leaf debris, of the central tanks of 239 bromeliads in Reserve Boa União in Bahia, Brazil.

They compared bromeliads that were occupied by a tree frog with those that were empty and found that male frogs generally prefer bromeliads with larger tanks, a higher volume of water, and less leaf litter — qualities which make the tanks less likely to dry up and easier to access. However, the very largest and fullest bromeliad tanks were frog-less, suggesting that a trade-off exists when choosing the best place to breed. Males have a specially shaped bony head that they use to form a tight seal with the opening of the bromeliad tank, which is thought to protect them from predators. Forming a tight seal may be tricky in very large bromeliads, making them a poor choice as a shelter.

The authors conclude that the trade-offs animals face when selecting a site to breed should be taken into consideration in conservation strategies.

Solé adds: “Aparasphenodon arapapa, a tropical frog from the Brazilian Atlantic Forest places its eggs into bromeliads, but instead of simply choosing the largest bromeliad tank with the most water, complex trade-offs between selection pressures and balancing water requirements are involved in the bromeliad choice.”