A newfound species of a tree frog is discovered at a remote mountaintop of a largely unexplored range of Cordillera del Cóndor in the Andes mountain ranges. These frogs look cute with their funny-looking claw.

Hyloscirtus hillisi is the latest member of the Hyloscirtus family of frogs, 37 species of which were previously identified.

Cute Newfound Tree Frog Species

These tree frogs can be found in nearby streams from Costa Rica to the Andes of Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Venezuela. For two days, biologists had to walk along a difficult terrain to reach the mountaintop.

"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," said Alex Achig, one of the biologists who discovered the cute species.

Funny-Looking Claw

The tree frogs' dorsal surfaces are bright orange with dark grayish-brown ventral surfaces. Their ventral pads are like of digital discs on their fingers and the toes are gray, yellowish-cream colored iris, and an enlarged funny-looking claw. The frog's unusual enlarged claw at the base of its thumb is called a prepollex, with its use still unknown.

In other amphibian and mammals, the prepollex is very small. However, the prepollex in Hyloscirtus hillisi is unusually large and rigid, appearing like a claw or a spike. It is suggested that this could function either as a protection against predators or as a weapon between competing males. However, it appeared later that females also have that same claw.

The genetic and physical analysis of the frog confirmed it belongs to a new species Hyloscirtus hillisi. It has a distinguished dark-brown coloration and contrasting bright orange spots. Scientists Andrea Varela, Santiago R. Ron, Marcel Caminer and Diego Almeida of the Catholic University of Ecuador inferred that the frog belongs to an unknown species.

The description of this newfound species can be found in the open-access journal ZooKeys.

Hyloscirtus hillisi Facing Extinction

The name of the newly discovered amphibian honors Dr. David Hillis of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. He discovered three closely related frog species in the same genus Andes of southern Ecuador in the 1980s.

Despite its recent discovery, Hyloscirtus hillisi is already facing the risk of extinction. The NGO Amazon Conservation has recently documented how a large-scale mining operation is threatening the Hills Torrent tree frog's habitat.

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