‘Paisa’ frog discovered in Colombia

Hyloscirtus Antioquia (Photo: Mauricio Rivera)

A finger-length frog, the color of milky coffee stained with weak yellow botches, has been identified as a new species, Hyloscirtus Antioquia, by researchers in Colombia.

The discovery was made public last week in the US magazine Herpetologica, by researchers from the University of Antioquia, in the northern Colombian department of the same name.

Although the frog is not particularly rare, it had long been confused with another species, the Hyloscirtus Larinopygion, which is found primarily in northern Ecuador.

Researchers realized that although the Larinopygion species had made it over the border into Colombia, it had not yet reached Antioquia, meaning that the new goggle-eyed frog is a true “paisa” – Antioquian born and bred – and can rightfully take its place alongside the “Bandeja Paisa” and the arepa flatbread as regional symbols.

“The species from Antioquia is very different, it has different coloration and different morphogical structures,” explained Mauricio Rivera Correa, a researcher from the Antioquia Herpetology Group (GHA), part of the Biology department at the University of Antioquia.

The frog lives in streams in several different municipalities in Antioquia, including Bello and Envigado, near Colombia’s second city Medellin. The study states that it lives at an altitude of between 7200 and 10,500 feet and only comes out at night.

Colombia was named by NGO Conservation International as one of 17 “Megadiversity” countries, and is in the top four most biodiverse countries in the world. Rivera says that the major reason for this is the country’s Andean mountains.

“While it’s difficult enough for humans to pass from one hill to the next, for biodiversity the mountains act as a mechanism of isolation,” Rivera said. Since each isolated valley has its own local ecosystem, animals end up evolving in such a way that they become specifically kitted out for the very particular challenges that their local ecosystem brings, resulting in an explosion of diversity.

According to 2004 data from the United Nations, Colombia has almost 55,000 species of amphibian, second only to Brazil.

Researchers would work from 6pm to 2am, equipped with – amongst other things – headtorches, cameras and specialized microhpones. They would scour the riverbanks, trying to pick out the frog’s distinctive call above the gurgling of the stream. Rivera said that the most they had ever found in a single night was four. Once found, the researchers would lie there, observing the frogs’ behavior, hoping to better understand them and so develop conservation strategies.

One aspect of the frog’s behavior that continues to mystify concerns its bulbous toes, which possess a strucutre that appears to have some use during or before mating. Rivera speculated that “it may have something to do with how the males stimulate the females.”

In early August a team from the Smithsonian Institute announced the discovery of a new species of carniverous mammal: the “olinguito.” Like the Antioquean frog, the olinguito had long been confused for another species, the olinga. It was the first new species of carnivore to be identified in the Americas for 35 years.

MORE: Carnivorous mammal, cutely named olinguito, discovered in Colombia



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