A new species of frog was recently discovered in New York City. DNA tests confirmed that a leopard frog was a distinct species, with a distinct call.
Jeremy Feinberg, a graduate student at Rutgers University, first noticed the frog in 2008 while walking through Staten Island. Feinberg noticed that the frog had an unusual call, a chirping sound. Feinberg began looking into the frog, and discovered that this was a distinct species. That makes this the first new species of amphibian discovered in New York since 1854.
The research paper detailing the discovery of this frog was published today, October 29, in the open-access journal PLOS One. You can hear the frog's distinct chirping call in this video released by PLOS.
The frog, Rana kauffeldi, lives in the New York City Metropolitan area and some surrounding area on the eastern coast. The frog is closely related to two other species of leopard frogs in the New York City area, Rana sphenocephala and R. pipiens.
This discovery clears up some long-standing confusion among herpetologists who have given different descriptions of New York City's two known species of leopard frogs. Now that this third frog has been discovered, it is clear that herpetologists have confused this frog with one of the two other species, as the newly discovered frog looks extremely similar aside from its distinct chirruping call. The newly discovered frog has slightly darker legs and a slightly larger vocal sac than the other two New York City leopard frogs. By testing the mitochondrial DNA on the new frog, the research team was able to tell that this was a distinct species.
The research team used audio samples of frogs on the East coast up and down a 485-mile strip to determine how far the frog had spread. The team found evidence of the frog living as far away as North Carolina, and Connecticut.
This discovery was somewhat unexpected because New York City is such a densely populated area that it's hard to imagine a species going undiscovered for so long.
"The discovery of a new frog species from the urban Northeast is truly remarkable and completes a journey that began six years ago with a simple frog call in the wilds of New York City. This story underscores the synergy that traditional field methods and modern molecular and bioacoustic techniques can have when used together; one is really lost without the other, but together are very powerful tools," Feinberg said.