A new frog species has been found that ranges from Connecticut to North Carolina and emits a distinct call that sounds more like a cough than a croak. The find not only welcomes a new frog to a life of recognition and a fancy classification name, but it also confirms claims of its existence that had long ago been discounted.
A research team led by Rutgers University has proven the existence of a frog now dubbed the Atlantic Coast leopard frog (a.k.a, Rana kauffeldi), detailing the find in a paper just published in the journal PLOS ONE.
The kauffeldi in its name was used in honor of ecologist Carl Kauffeld, a respected expert in reptiles and amphibians who in 1937 claimed the tiny frog existed but whose assertion did not gain traction in the scientific community.
With better observational tools in hand more than 70 years later, the researchers thought it fair to give Kauffeld, once the director of the Staten Island Zoo and the American Museum of Natural History, his due by honoring his work in the naming of the frog he'd written about so long ago.
The new frog was never considered a new species because it was closely related to two other leopard frogs, one to the north of it and one to the south (the northern and southern leopard frogs). But it was spotted on Staten Island six years ago by Rutgers doctoral candidate and lead author of the study, Jeremy Feinberg.
After that encounter in 2008, the frog received a closer look.
With molecular tools to study the creature's genetics and bio-acoustic techniques to listen in closely on its call, Feinberg and his colleagues were able to confirm that the frog was indeed a new species.
The call was among the things that set the new frog apart. It sounded more like a cough than the "croak" we're all used to hearing. Check out the video below for a look and a listen to the Atlantic Coast leopard frog coughing in action.
After the discovery, questions of real estate lingered. Did the new frog have lots of real estate it called home? How far did its turf extend?
To get a fix on its habitat, the researchers sought observation information -- where the frog lived, what it looked and sounded like -- from professional and recreational frog enthusiasts from Massachusetts down to Virginia. Some of the observations were passed on from the North American Amphibian Monitoring Project, a government project that observes frog habitats to determine if populations are declining.
It turned out, after the frog sightings were plotted, that Rana kauffeldi was a sort of "I-95 corridor" frog, living in an extended range along the Atlantic Coast.
"It is incredible and exciting that a new species of frog could be hiding in plain sight in New York City and existing from Connecticut to North Carolina," said Joanna Burger in a press release. The Rutgers professor in the department of cell biology and neuroscience, and Feinberg’s advisor, added: "The process of recognizing, identifying and documenting a new species is long and arduous but it is important for our understanding of the wide ranging wildlife in urban as well as other environments."
Originally published on Discovery News.