Biologists discover 11 new rain frog species in the Andes

By Brooks Hays
Most of the 11 new species are threatened by extinction. Photo by BIOWEB-PUCE
Most of the 11 new species are threatened by extinction. Photo by BIOWEB-PUCE

Aug. 2 (UPI) -- Scientists have found 11 new species of rain frogs hiding in the tropical forests of the Ecuadorian Andes.

Typically, scientific papers describe one or two new species, max -- scientists named 11 species in the latest ZooKeys paper. The sizable discovery is a testament to the biodiversity found among South America's tropical forests.


Unfortunately, many of South America's rich but delicate ecosystems are under threat. And not surprisingly, several of the frogs described in the latest paper are threatened with extinction.

Like so many tropical amphibian species, the newly discovered frogs have adapted to a very ecological niche. Their ranges are, thus, quite small -- each less than 1,000 square miles.

"To make matters worse, their habitats are being destroyed by human activities, especially cattle raising, agriculture, and mining," scientists wrote in a news release.

Researchers gave one of the newly discovered species the common name "multicolored rain frog," a reference to its varying appearances.

"Individuals vary from bright yellow to dark brown," researchers wrote. "Initially, the studied specimens were assumed to belong to at least two separate species."

Genetic analysis confirmed the multicolored rain frogs all belonged to the same species.


To confirm the uniqueness of each new frog species, scientists used a combination of DNA sequencing and qualitative morphology -- the analysis of body size, shape and appearance. Researchers also studied the mating calls of the different frogs.

Scientists hope that their work will help conservationists identify groups of species and unique ecosystems that warrant priority protections.

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