New frog species close to croaking

A new frog adds to Ecuador's diversity. Amy Middleton reports.

The Ecuadorian rainfrog (Pristimantis ecuadorensis), native to the Andes.
Juan M. Guayasamin/ Universidad San Francisco de Quito

A new species of frog has been discovered in the biodiversity hotspot of Ecuador – and immediately declared endangered.

Named the Ecuadorian rainfrog (Pristimantis ecuadorensis), the species is formally described in the journal PLOS One by researchers led Juan M. Guayasamin of Universidad San Francisco de Quito.

The team was in Ecuador to study the threatened ornate rainfrog, which they assumed was a single species until they found one group with very different colouring.

“[The team] and I were characterising the genetic differences among populations of the ornate rainfrog (Pristimantis ornatissimus), which was thought to be a single species of frog until we uncovered one population that was strikingly different from all others and turned out to be a distinct species,” explains Colorado State University biologist Chris Funk, who worked with Guayasamin.

The find was made in the Las Pampas region of the Andes. Because of its varied tropical climate, Ecuador has abundant animal and plant diversity, including more than 570 species of frog.

The new species was quickly listed as endangered, because of it small numbers, limited range, and significant loss of its habitat from logging and agriculture.

The discovery marks the second species named by the team in the past 10 years. Guayasamin describes the find as significant.

"We know that there's lots of undescribed biodiversity in Ecuador, so you could think this discovery is not a big deal," he says Guayasamin. "But this species, first of all, is spectacular-looking. Secondly, it's restricted to a single site which once again emphasises range-restricted, highly threatened biodiversity in the tropics.

“Lastly, its name, the Ecuadorean rainfrog, will hopefully draw local and international attention to the endangered species and ecosystems of Ecuador."

Funk says conducting research in the tropics is like being a kid in a candy store: "There is so much diversity in the region – it’s the reason we get into the field. We want to make sure this diversity persists into the future.”

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