Guest blog post by Germán Chávez
As a South American herpetologist, it is inevitable to be absolutely buzzed every time I hear “Germán, you have to go to the Amazon jungle”. Going to the Amazon forest in Peru is perhaps the most joyful way to do your work. The chances to find so many frogs, lizards, snakes, turtles, and even caimans are really high, so one can’t help but get excited.
The thing is, to someone like me who focuses their work on describing new species, the expectations shouldn’t be that high. The Amazon has always been a place full of mysteries, so many explorers, seduced by its enigmatic atmosphere, have gone deeper and deeper into the Amazonia. This has resulted in the description of so many species and very few unexplored places left.
So, when Wilmar Aznaran and I found this new species in the Amazon lowlands of central Peru, a well-visited area, we were quite surprised and kind of speechless. I have to confess that my reaction was “Bloody hell!” Externally, the frog is clearly different from any other similar species, and that was evident for us at the very moment we caught it. Indeed, the first option for the title of our new paper in Evolutionary Systematics was “Expect the unexpected: a new treefrog from the Amazon lowlands of Peru.” We could not believe that a medium-sized arboreal frog had passed in front of other researchers’ eyes, and remained unseen.
Soon we found out that it is not a common species in the area: after catching two individuals, we were unable to find more. Not ready to give up, we went once more time to that site a few months later and our efforts to find it were unsuccessful, so we suggest it is not a common frog.
At that point, we knew that we had a new species on hands, but describing it with only two specimens was challenging. Luis A. García-Ayachi went to the area and his efforts were also unsuccessful. That is when Alessandro Catenazzi joined us, so we decided to add an integrative approach to our work, basing our research on morphological and genetic differences. I can only say thanks to all our co-authors: from then on, everything started to work out.
We noticed there were wildfires in the area, are a serious threat to the frog’s habitat. So it is really curious that the orange pattern on the groins, thighs and shanks of the new species, resembles flames, like those threatening its habitat. No better name for our frog than Scinax pyroinguinis, which literally means “groins of fire”.
We hope that this discovery encourages people and institutions to protect these remnant forests in central Peru, because they may yet harbour unknown species. If these forests disappear, we will probably lose a diversity that we do not even know now yet, and may never will. It is sort of a race against deforestation and habitat loss, but this doesn’t mean there’s nothing we can do. Research like ours is really important to help put the focus on this place, at least in the short term, and try to attract people to join forces in the conservation of Scinax pyroinguinis and its habitat.
Chávez G, Aznaran W, García-Ayachi LA, Catenazzi A (2023) Rising from the ashes: A new treefrog (Anura, Hylidae, Scinax) from a wildfire-threatened area in the Amazon lowlands of central Peru. Evolutionary Systematics 7(1): 183-194. https://doi.org/10.3897/evolsyst.7.102425