Celebrating taxonomic discoveries: Top 10 new species of 2023

Get to know the most exciting new species published in Pensoft journals last year.

In 2023, the world of biodiversity saw some amazing discoveries . Our taxonomy journals published hundreds of new species, so selecting a Top Ten was tough, but here we go – get to know these beautiful new species, and maybe think about all the amazing diversity that still remains unexplored on our planet.

10. The walking leaf

It’s very often that undescribed species hide in plain sight for years, but it’s easy to understand why when they look like that! Leaf insects look confusingly similar to leaves – this sophisticated camouflage provides excellent protection from predators, but also presents a challenge to researchers.

“There are around 3,500 known species of stick and leaf insects and there are currently just over 100 described species of leaf insect,” researcher Dr Sven Bradler says. This is why when Phyllium ortizi and six other leaf insect species were found, it made for a really special discovery.

Lime-green in colour, Phyllium ortizi is so far only known from Mindanao Island, Philippines.

Published in ZooKeys.

9. The spiky hedgehog

The Eastern Forest Hedgehog (Mesechinus orientalis) was discovered in southwestern China. It is a small-bodied hedgehog, smaller than most of the other species in its genus, its spines as short as 1.8-2 cm. It has a brown nose, with black whiskers that shorten towards the nose.

The species is currently known from southern Anhui and northwestern Zhejiang, where it lives in scrubland and subtropical broad-leaf evergreen forests at elevations from 30 to 700 m.

The researchers found out that genus Mesechinus, to which the new species belongs, dates back to the early Pleistocene and started appearing around 1.71 million years ago, while M. Orientalis diverged from its congeners some 1.1 million years ago.

Published in ZooKeys.

8. The bumpy salamander

Tylototriton zaimeng was found in the eponymous Zaimeng lake in Manipur, India. It is a medium-sized salamander has a massive wide head that could take up as much as a quarter of its total length. Its most distinctive feature are the knob-like warts along its body.

The salamander has an earthy-brown body with orange markings along its head and orange-brown warts down its back and sides. Its tail fades from brown at the base to yellow-orange at the tip.

Even though it has just been discovered as a species for science, locals know a lot about it and have different names for it.

Because its known range is limited and threatened by deforestation and human interference, the species should be considered vulnerable.

Published in Herpetozoa.

7. The “groins of fire” frog

An unexpected discovery, this new treefrog species was found in the Amazon lowlands of central Peru. The research team, led by GermĂĄn ChĂĄvez, was surprised that a new species could be hiding in plain sight in an otherwise well-explored part of the Amazon. No matter how many times they returned to the site, they only found two specimens, which made its scientific description challenging.

Its name, Scinax pyroinguinis, literally means “groins of fire”. It is a reference to the orange, flame-like pattern on the groins, thighs and shanks, but also to the wildfires in the area where it was found, which are a serious threat to its habitat.

Published in Evolutionary Systematics.

6. The charming carnivore

Pinguicula ombrophila is part of the butterwort family, a group of insectivorous flowering plants consisting of around 115 species. Its leaves have a sticky texture, enabling it to capture and digest small insects.

For carnivorous plants, insects can be an additional source of nutrients to help them compensate the nutrient deficiency of the substrate they’re growing in. This gives them a competitive advantage over other plants and enables them to thrive in challenging habitats.

While the majority of butterworts are found in the northern hemisphere, this species was discovered in the elevated regions of southern Ecuador, near the Peru border. The research team found it on a nearly vertical rock face at 2,900 metres. Its name means “rain-loving butterwort”, highlighting the plant’s preference for very wet conditions.

Published in PhytoKeys.

5. The unicorn fish

Sinocyclocheilus longicornus (from the Latin words “longus”, meaning long, and “cornu”, meaning horn) comes from Southern China. It is only known from a dark vertical cave at an elevation of 2,276 m in the province of Guizhou. It is around 10-15 centimeters long and lacks pigmentation in its scales, which gives it it a ghostly whitish appearance. Since its eyes are small and probably not much help in a completely dark environment, it relies on barbels that look like tiny whiskers to feel its way around.

The researchers that found it are not quite sure what its “horn” is used for, but it might have something to do with navigating its way in the dark and dreary environment it inhabits.

Sinocyclocheilus longicornus is also featured in the SHOALS report on freshwater fish species described in 2023.

Published in ZooKeys.

4. The DiCaprio snake

snake

Sibon irmelindicaprioae was described as a new species together with four more tree-dwelling snake species from jungles of Ecuador, Colombia, and Panama. They all belong to Dipsadinae —a subfamily of snakes found in North and South America.

Also known as DiCaprio’s snail-eating snake, this species was named after actor and film producer Leonardo DiCaprio’s mother, Irmelin DiCaprio. The actor himself chose the name to honour his mother and raise awareness about the threats these snakes face.

Its habitat in Panama is affected by large-scale copper mining. The open-pit mines, some of them visible from space, make the areas uninhabitable for snail-eating snakes.

“These new species of snake are just the tip of the iceberg in terms of new species discoveries in this region, but if illegal mining continues at this rate, there may not be an opportunity to make any future discoveries,” says Alejandro Arteaga, who led the study to describe them.

Published in ZooKeys.

3. The Tolkien frog

Frog

You probably guessed it by now – this stream frog from the Ecuadorian Andes was named after J.R.R. Tolkien, the author of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.

At about 66 millimeters (2.5 inches) long, Hyloscirtus tolkieni is tiny enough to fit in the palm of your hand, but that doesn’t stop it from being simply stunning. With pale pink eyes and gold-speckled toes, it looks like it came straight out of Middle-earth. It was found at an elevation of 3190 meters in RĂ­o Negro-Sopladora National Park, a protected area of pĂĄramo and cloud forests.

“The new species of frog has amazing colours, and it would seem that it lives in a universe of fantasies, like those created by Tolkien. The truth is that the tropical Andes are magical ecosystems where some of the most wonderful species of flora, funga, and fauna in the world are present. Unfortunately, few areas are well protected from the negative impacts caused by humans. Deforestation, unsustainable agricultural expansion, mining, invasive species, and climate changes are seriously affecting Andean biodiversity”, said Diego F. Cisneros-Heredia, one of the researchers behind this discovery.

Published in ZooKeys.

2. The enigmatic Nautilus

2023 was a great year for nautilus biodiversity: three species were described as new to science, including Nautilus samoaensis, which you see here. Like its name tells you, it was found off the coast of American Samoa.

Studying nautilus diversity is no easy feat – with setting spiky traps, hauling them over on board, and, eventually, burping nautiluses, it is surely a memorable experience.

Judging by the fossil record, nautiloids were once quite plentiful throughout the oceans. Today, however, they are represented by just a handful of species.

In addition, these fragile animals remain threatened by wildlife trade as they are hunted for their shells, which according to Mongabay can sell for up to about $1,000 each on the black market.

This beautiful species was also featured in the World Register of Marine Speciesselection of the top 10 marine species published in 2023, along with another ZooKeys species.

Published in ZooKeys.

1. The electric blue tarantula

Found in Thailand’s Phang-Nga province, Chilobrachys natanicharum features an enchanting phenomenon: a neon blue-purple coloration that gives it a unique look.

There is no blue pigment in this tarantula’s body: the secret behind its striking color comes from the unique structure of its hair, which incorporates nanostructures that manipulate light in an effect that creates the blue appearance. Depending on the light, it can also appear violet.

Before it was described as a new species, Chilobrachys natanicharum was actually known to experts from the commercial tarantula trade market as “Chilobrachys sp. Electric Blue Tarantula,” but this is the first time that it’s discovered in its natural habitat.

Its name, in fact, resulted from an auction campaign, the proceeds from the auction have been channeled to bolster the education of Lahu children in Thailand and to aid impoverished cancer patients.

Published in ZooKeys.

A new “groins of fire” frog, from the Peruvian Amazon

“When we found this new species in the Amazon lowlands of central Peru, we were quite surprised and kind of speechless.”

Guest blog post by GermĂĄn ChĂĄvez

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 Agua Blanca forest. Photo by GermĂĄn ChĂĄvez

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.

Scinax pyroinguinis. Photo by GermĂĄn ChĂĄvez

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. GarcĂ­a-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.

Scinax pyroinguinis. Photo by GermĂĄn ChĂĄvez

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.

Research article:

ChĂĄvez G, Aznaran W, GarcĂ­a-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

New frog species named after fantasy author J.R.R. Tolkien

The frog lives in the pristine streams of the RĂ­o Negro-Sopladora National Park, a protected area with thousands of hectares of almost primary forests in Ecuador.

“In a stream in the forest there lived a Hyloscirtus. Not a nasty, dirty stream, with spoor of contamination and a muddy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy stream with nothing in it to perch on or to eat: it was a Hyloscirtus-stream, and that means environmental quality.”
(adapted from the opening of “The Hobbit” by J. R. R. Tolkien)

A magnificent new species of stream frog from the Andes of Ecuador was named after J. R. R. Tolkien, creator of Middle-earth and author of famous fantasy works “The Hobbit” and “The Lord of the Rings. It lives in the pristine streams of the RĂ­o Negro-Sopladora National Park, a recently declared protected area that preserves thousands of hectares of almost primary forests in southeastern Ecuador.

Stream frogs are a group of amphibians that inhabit the high Andes of Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuado, Peru, and Bolivia. Their life is closely linked to the pure rivers and streams in the mountain areas of the Andes, hence the name “stream frogs”. The adults live in the riparian vegetation, and their tadpoles develop among the rocks of the rapid waters of the rivers.

The researchers, Juan C. SĂĄnchez-Nivicela, JosĂŠ M. FalcĂłn-ReibĂĄn, and Diego F. Cisneros-Heredia, named the new frog Hyloscirtus tolkieni in honour of one of their favourite writer. JRR Tolkien, a renowned author, poet, philologist and academic, is the creator of Middle-earth and the father of fantastic works such as “The Hobbit” and “The Lord of the Rings”. The amazing colours of this new frog species reminded them of the magnificent creatures from Tolkien’s fantasy worlds. 

Expeditions carried out since 2020 in the RĂ­o Negro-Sopladora National Park in Ecuador have allowed the discovery of a large number of species yet unknown to science. A protected area since 2018, this national park, located in the south of the country, is home to large forested areas that remain unstudied.

“For weeks, we explored different areas of the Río Negro-Sopladora National Park, walking from paramo grasslands at 3,100 meters elevation to forests at 1,000 m. We found a single individual of this new species of frog, which we found impressive due to its colouration and large size.”, indicated Juan Carlos Sánchez Nivicela, associate researcher at the Museum of Zoology of the Universidad San Francisco de Quito USFQ and the National Institute of Biodiversity, and co-author of the study where the frog is described.

The RĂ­o Negro Stream Frog is easily differentiated from all its frog releatives by its appearance and unique colouration. It is relatively large (65 mm long), a greyish green back with yellow spots and black specks, and a pale pink and black iris. Its throat, belly and flanks as well as the undersides of its legs are golden yellow with large black spots and dots, and its fingers and toes have black bars and spots and broad skin stripes.

“The new species of frog has amazing colours, and it would seem that it lives in a universe of fantasies, like those created by Tolkien. The truth is that the tropical Andes are magical ecosystems where some of the most wonderful species of flora, funga, and fauna in the world are present. Unfortunately, few areas are well protected from the negative impacts caused by humans. Deforestation, unsustainable agricultural expansion, mining, invasive species, and climate changes are seriously affecting Andean biodiversity”, said Diego F. Cisneros-Heredia, director of the Museum of Zoology of the Universidad San Francisco de Quito USFQ and associate researcher of the National Institute of Biodiversity, and co-author of the study.

The species is still only known from one locality and one individual, so information is insufficient to assess its conservation status and the risk of extinction. However, the authors agree that it is urgent to establish research and monitoring actions to study its life history and ecology, as well as its population size and dynamics. In addition, they suggest exploring new sites where additional populations may exist, and assessing whether their long-term conservation is affected by any threats, such as invasive species, mining, emerging diseases, or climate change.

The description of new species is an important mechanism to support global strategies for the conservation of vulnerable environments, since it reveals the great wealth of biodiversity that is linked to countless natural resources and environmental services. For example, amphibians are important pest controllers and play vital ecological roles in the stability of nature. Unfortunately, 57% of amphibian species in Ecuador are threatened by extinction.

Research article:

SĂĄnchez-Nivicela JC, FalcĂłn-ReibĂĄn JM, Cisneros-Heredia DF (2023) A new stream treefrog of the genus Hyloscirtus (Amphibia, Hylidae) from the RĂ­o Negro-Sopladora National Park, Ecuador. ZooKeys 1141: 75-92. https://doi.org/10.3897/zookeys.1141.90290

Photos by Juan Carlos SĂĄnchez-Nivicela / Archive Museo de ZoologĂ­a, Universidad San Francisco de Quito

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Frog with tapir-like nose found in Amazon rainforest

The people of Peru’s Comunidad Nativa Tres Esquinas have long known about a tiny, burrowing frog with a characteristically long snout. Yet, until now, this species has remained elusive to biologists.

The people of Peru’s ​​Comunidad Nativa Tres Esquinas have long known about a tiny, burrowing frog with a long snout; one local name for it is rana danta, “tapir frog” for its resemblance to the large-nosed Amazonian mammal. But until now, this frog has remained elusive to biologists. Thanks to the help of local guides, an international team of researchers was able to find the frog and give it an official scientific name and description.

It’s an example of the Amazon’s hidden diversity, and it’s important to document it to understand how important the ecosystem functions.

Michelle Thompson, researcher in the Keller Science Action Center at Chicago’s Field Museum

“These frogs are really hard to find, and that leads to them being understudied,” says Michelle Thompson, a researcher in the Keller Science Action Center at Chicago’s Field Museum and one of the authors of a study describing the frog in Evolutionary Systematics. “It’s an example of the Amazon’s hidden diversity, and it’s important to document it to understand how important the ecosystem functions.”

“Frogs of this genus are spread throughout the Amazon, but since they live underground and can’t get very far by digging, the ranges each species is distributed in are fairly small. Since we found this new species in Amazon peatland, it wouldn’t be strange for it to be restricted to this environment. Its body shape and general look seems to be adapted to the soft soil of the peatland, rather than the robust and wider shape of species in other environments,”says Germán Chávez, a researcher at Peru’s Instituto Peruano de Herpetología and the study’s first author.

Synapturanus danta. Photo provided by Field Museum

The tapir frog’s appearance is striking. “It looks like a caricature of a tapir, because it has a big blobby body with this tiny little pointy head,” says Thompson. But despite its goofy appearance, it was very difficult to find. “The frogs are tiny, about the size of a quarter, they’re like brown, they’re underground, and they’re quick,” she says. “You know these little frogs are somewhere underground, but you just don’t see them hopping around.”

But while the frogs are hard to see, they’re not hard to hear. “We just kept hearing this beep-beep-beep coming from underground, and we suspected it could be a new species of burrowing frog because there had recently been other species in its genus described,” says Thompson. “But how do we get to it?”

Local guides who were familiar with the frogs led the researchers to peatland areas– wetlands carpeted with nutrient-rich turf made of decaying plant matter. The team searched by night, when the frogs were most active. 

“After 15 to 20 minutes of digging and looking for them, I heard Michelle screaming, and to me that could only mean that she and David had found the first adult,” says Chavez.

“We could hear them underground, going beep-beep-beep, and we’d stop, turn off our lights, and dig around, and then listen for it again,” says Thompson. “After a few hours, one hopped out of his little burrow, and we were screaming, ‘Somebody grab it!’”

Synapturanus danta. Photo by GermĂĄn ChĂĄvez

In addition to finally finding adult specimens of the frogs, the team recorded their calls. “I am obsessed with recording frog calls, so I decided to record the call first and then continue digging,” says Chávez.

The researchers used the physical specimens of the frogs, along with the recordings of their calls and an analysis of the frogs’ DNA, to confirm that they were a new species. They named them Synapturanus danta– Synapturanus is the name of the genus they belong to, and danta is the local word for “tapir.”

The frogs’ burrowing behavior that made them hard to find likely makes them an important part of their peatland home. “They’re part of the underground ecosystem,” says Thompson. “They’re moving down there, they’re eating down there, they’re laying their eggs down there. They contribute to nutrient cycling and changing the soil structure.”

“Beside the important role of this new species in the food chain of its habitat, we believe that it could be an indicator of healthy peatlands,” says Chávez. “First, we have to confirm whether it’s restricted to this habitat, but its body adaptations seem to point in that direction. For instance, if the habitat is too dry, the soil would become too hard for a non-robust frog like this one to dig. This would leave our frog with far fewer chances to find a shelter and eventually, it would be hunted by a bigger predator. So I think possibilities that this frog would be a wetlands specialist are high, but still need to go further in this research to confirm it.”

Panoramic view of the type locality. Photo by Alvaro del Campo

And the study’s implications go beyond the description of one little frog. S. danta was found during a rapid inventory led by Field Museum scientists, a program in which biologists and social scientists spend a few weeks in a patch of the Amazon to learn what species live there, how the people in the area manage the land, and how they can help make a case for the area to be protected. “Even though it’s called a rapid inventory, it could take a year or more to plan these things, and then it could take a year or a decade to do the conservation follow-up,” says Thompson. “The rapid part is where you spend a month in the field. And it’s a total whirlwind.”

A view of the landscape in the Amazonian Peatlands inhabited by Synapturanus danta. Photo by Luis Montenegro

Peru’s Putumayo Basin, where this rapid inventory took place, is part of a larger conservation scheme by the Keller Science Action Center and its partners. “The Putumayo Corridor spans from Ecuador, Colombia, Peru, and down to Brazil, following the Putumayo River,” says Thompson. “There’s very little deforestation, and it’s also one of the last free flowing rivers that has no current dams. There’s like a huge conservation opportunity to conserve the whole corridor, watershed and surrounding areas. This tapir frog is another piece of evidence of why scientists and local people need to work together to protect this region.”

Research article:

ChĂĄvez G, Thompson ME, SĂĄnchez DA, ChĂĄvez-Arribasplata JC, Catenazzi A (2022) A needle in a haystack: Integrative taxonomy reveals the existence of a new small species of fossorial frog (Anura, Microhylidae, Synapturanus) from the vast lower Putumayo basin, Peru. Evolutionary Systematics 6(1): 9-20. https://doi.org/10.3897/evolsyst.6.80281

New rainfrog species named in honor of Greta Thunberg

The Rainforest Trust celebrated its 30th anniversary by hosting an auction offering naming rights for new-to-science species. The funds raised are to aid their conservation.

In 2018, Rainforest Trust celebrated its 30th anniversary by hosting an auction offering naming rights for some new-to-science species. The funds raised at the auction benefited the conservation of the newly recognized species. It is estimated that about 100 new species are discovered each year.

The scientific article officially describing and naming the new species, Pristimantis gretathunbergae, was published in Pensoft’s scientific journal ZooKeys.

Greta Thunberg, Sweden at the Annual Meeting 2019 of the World Economic Forum in Davos, January 25, 2019. Copyright by World Economic Forum / Manuel Lopez

The international team that discovered the new rainfrog was led by Abel Batista, Ph.D. (Panama) and Konrad Mebert, Ph.D. (Switzerland). The two have collaborated for 10 years in Panama and have published eight scientific articles together and described 12 new species.

The team found the frog on Mount Chucanti, a sky island surrounded by lowland tropical rainforest in eastern Panama. Reaching its habitat in the cloud forest required access via horseback through muddy trails, hiking up steep slopes, by-passing two helicopters that crashed decades ago, and camping above 1000 m elevation. The Chucanti reserve was established by the Panamanian conservation organization ADOPTA with support from Rainforest Trust.

The Greta Thunberg Rainfrog exhibits distinctive black eyes—unique for Central American rainfrogs. Its closest relatives inhabit northwestern Colombia. Unfortunately, the frog’s remaining habitat is severely fragmented and highly threatened by rapid deforestation for plantations and cattle pasture. The Chucanti Reserve where the frog was first found is part of a growing network of natural parks and preserves championed by the Panamanian Government.

Greta Thunberg’s rainfrog, Pristimantis gretathunbergae. Photo by Konrad Mebert

The Rainforest Trust auction winner wanted to name the frog in honor of Greta Thunberg and her work in highlighting the urgency in preventing climate change. Her “School Strike for Climate” outside the Swedish parliament has inspired students worldwide to carry out similar strikes called Fridays for Future. She has impressed global leaders and her work is drawing others to action for the climate.

The plight of the Greta Thunberg Rainfrog is closely linked to climate warming, as rising temperatures would destroy its small mountain habitat. The Mount Chucanti region already has lost more than 30% of its forest cover over the past 10 years. Deadly chytrid fungus pose additional threats for its amphibians. Conservation of the remaining habitat is critical to ensure the survival of the frog. The important work in Panama by ADOPTA and Rainforest Trust globally to protect rainforests is critical to the survival of this frog and many other endangered species.

Research article:

Mebert K, GonzĂĄlez-PinzĂłn M, Miranda M, Griffith E, Vesely M, Schmid PL, Batista A (2022) A new rainfrog of the genus Pristimantis (Anura, Brachycephaloidea) from central and eastern Panama. ZooKeys 1081: 1–34. https://doi.org/10.3897/zookeys.1081.63009

Greek heroic deity Prometheus now has a namesake in a new tiny rain frog from Ecuador

Prometheus, the mythological Greek heroic deity, has been given a namesake in a new species of tiny rain frog, discovered in southwestern Ecuador. The name was chosen by the international team of scientists, led by Dr Paul Szekely, Ovidius University, Constanta, Romania, in acknowledgement of the Prometeo program, funded by the Ecuadorian government.

The description of this new species (Pristimantis prometeii) is the result of the cooperation between three Romanian Prometeo investigators affiliated with the Universidad Tecnica Particular de Loja and Universidad Nacional de Loja, and two Ecuadorian specialists from Pontificia Universidad Catolica del Ecuador. The full study is available from the open access ZooKeys.

During the day, frogs of the new species were found hiding in flowering plants, while at night — perching on leaves at low heights in well preserved cloud forests. They grow to 2-3 cm with the females being larger than the males.9121_Adult female in life img 2

The newly described species is part of a group of frogs called Terrarana (meaning ‘Land or terrestrial frogs’). This is a lineage of frogs that has evolved directly developing eggs, which are deposited in terrestrial habitats. Unlike other frogs, these ones do not have an aquatic tadpole stage and the embryos develop directly into froglets on land.

The newly described species is only known from Reserva Biologica Buenaventura, southwestern Ecuador, at elevations between 878 and 1082 m. This reserve is privately owned by the Jocotoco Conservation Foundation. The reserve has at least another four endemic species of amphibians, reptiles, and birds.

With more than 470 species, the directly developing rain frogs of the genus Pristimantiscontinue to surprise everyone.

“While new species are described every year, there are over a hundred discovered over the last decade only,” remind the authors.

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extraOriginal source:

Szekely P, Cogalniceanu D, Szekely D, Paez N, Ron SR (2016) A new species of Pristimantis from southern Ecuador (Anura, Craugastoridae). ZooKeys 606: 77-97. doi: 10.3897/zookeys.606.9121

Singing in the rain: A new species of rain frog from Manu National Park, Amazonian Peru

A new rain frog species has been described from Amazonian Peru and the Amazonian foothills of the Andes. The frog, given the name Pristimantis pluvialis, was found by researchers from Southern Illinois University Carbondale, the University of Michigan, and the National University of San Antonio Abad of Cusco in Peru. The discovery is published in the open access journal ZooKeys.

Several individuals of P. pluvialis were found during nocturnal surveys near Manu National Park, a region recognized as having the highest diversity of reptiles and amphibians of any protected area.

The species has also been collected within the private conservation area Bosque Nublado, owned by the Peruvian NGO PerĂş Verde, and within the Huachiperi Haramba Queros Conservation Concession, the first such type of concession granted to a native community in Peru.

The new species is likely found within the park as well, bringing the number of known amphibian species in this area to 156. Similarly to other species within its genus, which is among the largest vertebrate genera, the new rain frog exhibits direct development. This means that it is capable of undergoing its entire life cycle without a free-living tadpole stage.

It can be distinguished from other members of its genus by call, skin texture, and the presence of a rostral papilla. It was given the name “pluvialis”, translatable to “rainy” from Latin, to denote the incredibly rain-soaked habitat it lives in (>8 meters of rain yearly), and because it was found calling only after heavy rains.

Unfortunately, when a fungal disease, known as the amphibian chytrid fungus, arrived in the area back in the early 2000s, many frog species in and around the region began to decline. Out of the studied ten individuals of the presently described new species, four were found to be infected. However, the impact of the disease on these particular rain frogs is still unknown, and their numbers do not seem to have decreased.Image 3

“This discovery highlights the need for increased study throughout the tropics, for example Manu NP and its surrounding areas have been well studied, but despite these efforts, new species are being continuously discovered,” points out first author Alex Shepack, a PhD student in the laboratory of co-author Dr Alessandro Catenazzi at Southern Illinois University.

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Original source:

Shepack A, von May R, Ttito A, Catenazzi A (2016) A new species of Pristimantis (Amphibia, Anura, Craugastoridae) from the foothills of the Andes in Manu National Park, southeastern Peru. ZooKeys 594: 143-164. doi: 10.3897/zookeys.594.8295

Finding the real treasure of the Incas: Two new frog species from an unexplored region

Inaccessibility and mysticism surrounding the mist-veiled mountains of the central Andes make this region promising to hide treasures. With an area of 2197 km2, most of the Llanganates National Park, Ecuador, is nearly unreachable and is traversed only by foot. However, fieldwork conducted by researchers from the Museo de Zoología at Catholic University of Ecuador resulted in the discovery of a more real and tangible gem: biodiversity.

Among other surprises, during their expeditions the researchers discovered two new species of rain frogs, formally named P. llanganati and P. yanezi. The new species are characterized by the spiny appearance typical of several species inhabiting montane forests. The study was published in the open access journal ZooKeys.

The new rain frogs belong to the megadiverse genus Pristimantis. They are direct-developing frogs, which means that they lack a tadpole stage and therefore do not undergo metamorphosis.Amphibia

The Neotropical Andes houses a spectacular radiation of Pristimantis, especially in the Montane Forests of the eastern slopes of the Ecuadorian Andes. The species richness of this genus is still underestimated as a consequence of their cryptic morphology and the still sparse amphibian inventories in unexplored regions such as the Llanganates National Park.

The discovery reminds the authors of a mystic local legend dating from the 16th century, when the Inca Empire fell into the hands of Spanish conquerors. Word has it that in exchange for the young emperor’s life, Atahualpa, Incas offered to fill an entire room with tons of gold. However, the Spaniards broke their promise and the emperor was executed. A small group of loyal Incas led by General RumiĂąahui decided to hide both, the mummy of Atahualpa and the gold, in the depths of the jungle of the Llanganates National Park.

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Original source:

Navarrete MJ, Venegas PJ, Ron SR (2016) Two new species of frogs of the genus Pristimantis from Llanganates National Park in Ecuador with comments on the regional diversity of Ecuadorian Pristimantis (Anura, Craugastoridae). ZooKeys 593: 139-162. doi: 10.3897/zookeys.593.8063

Conservation hopes up for the endangered banana frog restricted to Southwest Ethiopia

As the natural forest cover in Ethiopia is already less than 3% of what it once has been, the banana frog species, dwelling exclusively in the remnants of the country’s southwestern forests in only two populations, is exposed to a great risk of extinction.

Through their survey, a research team, led by Matthias De Beenhouwer, Biodiversity Inventory for Nature Conservation (BINCO), Belgium, have now extended the species’ range, thus making the first steps to saving the charming frogs. The study is published in the open-access journal ZooKeys.

Although Ethiopia is known for its high number of both animal and plant species that do not live anywhere else in the world, there is a concerning lack of conservation activities to preserve the local biodiversity. Moreover, while as much as 41% of the amphibians ever recorded in the country are exclusive for its fauna, there have been only few researches. Without such, pointing the hotspots in greatest need of protection and restoration, as well as taking adequate measures subsequently, is impossible.

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Concerned about the endangered status of the banana frog, and supported with a Rufford grant, Matthias and his team spent ten evenings, or 111 hours, in August 2014, seeking and collecting as many frogs as possible from seven different locations. When they determined the species status of the found individuals, it turned out that they have managed to discover several new populations of banana frogs from unexpected localities.

As a result of their survey, the geographical range of the Ethiopian banana frog has been expanded by roughly 40 km towards the North and 70 km to the East. Its altitudinal distribution already reaches a maximum of 2030 metres above sea level, compared to the previously known maximum of 1800 m.

Banana frogs being identified from outside forest habitats is also a good news for the species’ preservation since it shows that not only are the frogs more tolerable against forest degradation than expected, but that also there could be even more populations.

“Although Southwest Ethiopia is known to harbour the last large tracts of natural forest, forest cover has declined dramatically to less than 3% nationwide,” point out the researchers. “Therefore, accurate information on species conservation and distribution is an essential first step to facilitate the delivery of conservation updates, recognize biodiversity hotspots and encourage habitat protection and restoration.”

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Original source:

Mertens J, JocquĂŠ M, Geeraert L, De Beenhouwer M (2016) Newly discovered populations of the Ethiopian endemic and endangered Afrixalus clarkei Largen, implications for conservation.ZooKeys 565: 141-146.doi: 10.3897/zookeys.565.7114

Emerald and gold: Two new jewel-eyed endemic tree frog species from Taiwan

Two endemic tree frog species, not recognised by science until now, have been identified in broadleaf forests in the island country of Taiwan. Unlike their siblings from mainland China and Southern Asia, they demonstrate reproductive behaviour, characterised with egg-eating (oophagous) tadpole embryos feeding on eggs, while still inside the mother’s womb. What told them apart initially, however, were their jewel-coloured eyes. The research team, led by Dr. Shu-Ping Wu, University of Taipei, have their study published in the open-access journal ZooKeys.

One of the new species, whose scientific name, K. berylliniris, translates from Latin to ‘green-coloured iris’, has been found to dwell among the leaves of moist forests in eastern Taiwan. It is a slender-bodied amphibian with the females slightly bigger than the males, measuring an average length of 41 mm versus 35 mm, respectively. Matching its emerald eyes is its body, which can be either dark green in colour, or deep tan. It is only the belly and the throat that, in contrast, are white and sometimes faintly speckled. On the other hand, its tadpoles vary from heavily dark brown to black.

The second new tree frog, called Kurixalus wangi after pioneer herpetologist Mr. Ching-Shong Wang, can be distinguished with its golden-yellow eyes and extraordinarily small body. Compared to its related species, this one measures an average of 30 mm for males and 34 for female individuals. Its upper-side body is brownish-green with deep brown and black spots, while its belly and throat – whitish.

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Both new frog species have been seen to lay their eggs in tree holes, but at different time of the year. The couple, described in the present paper, are also the first representatives of their genus found in the East-Asian country, although the scientists believe it is unlikely for them to be the only ones.

“The actual amphibian species diversity on the island of Taiwan is likely higher than currently thought, given the diverse habitats and the dynamic history of geographic events,” they argue. “Although Taiwan is a highly developed island with significant alterations to the natural landscape and destruction of critical habitats for amphibians, it is noteworthy that during the last fifty years, six of the seven newly described frog species in Taiwan were tree frogs inhabiting forested areas.”

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Original source:

Wu S-P, Huang C-C, Tsai C-L, Lin T-E, Jhang J-J, Wu S-H (2016) Systematic revision of the Taiwanese genus Kurixalus members with a description of two new endemic species (Anura, Rhacophoridae). ZooKeys 557: 121-153. doi: 10.3897/zookeys.557.6131