- Few biological surveys have been conducted in the Pui Pui Protected Forest in the decades since it was established in 1985, and “the potential for additional discoveries is enormous,” according to one researcher who helped discover the three new frog species.
- The three new species all belong to a family of land-breeding frogs called Craugastoridae whose embryos hatch as froglets rather than going through a tadpole stage, which allows them to survive in a wide array of habitat types with sufficient moisture.
- The researchers say they will describe three more new frogs as well as two new lizards they’ve discovered in the Pui Pui Protected Forest in future papers.
Three new frog species have been discovered in the montane forests and Andean grasslands of Peru’s Pui Pui Protected Forest.
Rudolf von May, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Michigan and one of the authors of a paper describing the three new species that was published in the journal Zootaxa late last month, said in a statement that there are many more species discoveries to be made in the region — and teased the fact that he and his colleagues might soon be announcing further new finds of their own, including frogs and lizards.
Few biological surveys have been conducted in the Pui Pui Protected Forest in the decades since it was established in 1985, and “the potential for additional discoveries is enormous,” von May added.
“Our team has now described five new species of frogs from this region, with several more to come in the near future,” he said. “These discoveries demonstrate the need for further scientific exploration of such Andean habitats.”
The three new species discovered by von May and the other co-authors of the Zootaxa paper — an international team of researchers from the Czech Republic and Peru in addition to the United States — all belong to the genus Pristimantis, a large genus of frogs containing close to 500 species found across Central and South America, from Honduras down to southern Brazil, as well as in the southern Caribbean.
All three species are less than three inches in length and belong to a family of land-breeding frogs called Craugastoridae, whose embryos hatch as froglets rather than going through a tadpole stage, which allows them to survive in a wide array of habitat types with sufficient moisture. Edgar Lehr of Illinois Wesleyan University in the US, the lead author of the paper describing the new species, said that the high elevations of the Peruvian Andes appear to have been the scene of an evolutionary radiation for Craugastoridae frogs, which is when a single ancestral group produces many descendant species adapted to different habitats.
About 70 percent of the Pui Pui Protected Forest, which covers 150,000 acres, is composed of Andean grasslands, while 30 percent is cloud forest.
“Our findings suggest that the Pui Pui Protected Forest houses unique biological communities containing species found nowhere else,” Lehr said. “One reason for this is that the area has a steep topographic gradient including a broad array of habitats and local microclimates that contribute to high amphibian species diversity.”
Two of the new species’ names reflect the habitat they seem to prefer. They are: the Pui Pui Rubber Frog (P. puipui), whose name was taken from the Quechua words “pui pui,” which means “eyes of water,” a reference to the lakes of the Pui Pui Protected Forest; and the Hill Dweller Rubber Frog (P. bounides), named after the Greek word “bounos,” which translates to “dweller of the hills.”
The third new species, Humboldt’s Rubber Frog (P. humboldti), was named in honor of German naturalist and explorer Alexander von Humboldt.
The researchers note that, while habitat loss in the Peruvian Andes driven by conversion of forests into agricultural and pasture land is a concern, much of the habitat preferred by the newly discovered frog species is formally protected.
Lehr, von May, and team described two other new species of Peruvian frogs earlier this year, P. ashaninka (named for the Ashaninka, an indigenous people from the Peruvian and Brazilian Amazon) and P. attenboroughi (named in honor of Sir David Attenborough, the naturalist and BBC broadcaster). The researchers say they will describe three more new frogs as well as two new lizards they’ve discovered in the Pui Pui Protected Forest in future papers.
- Lehr, E., Von May, R., Moravec, J., & Cusi, J. C. (2017). Three new species of Pristimantis (Amphibia, Anura, Craugastoridae) from upper montane forests and high Andean grasslands of the Pui Pui Protected Forest in central Peru. Zootaxa. doi:10.11646/zootaxa.4299.3.1
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