Two new species of glass frog discovered in Ecuador

Researchers have discovered two new species of glass frog in South America. (Berkely.edu)

The southern tropical Andes, which understand regions of Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia, is one of the most biodiverse regions in the world, especially with regard to amphibians. The region is home to around 980 species of amphibians, including more than half of the 150 known species of glass frogs. Now two new members of the Tiny Frogs have joined this ever-growing list.

Endemic south of Mexico, Central America and South America, glass frogs are fascinating animals. Agile frogs can leap more than ten feet at a time. Also, unlike other frog species, the males guard their eggs until they the hatch and the tadpoles fall into the water. But the most unique of frogs attribute is their appearance. While the front is usually bright green, the underside lacks color pigment and is translucent. Consequently, the animal internal organs – a beating red heart, while the liver and digestive system, and, in the case of females, a cluster of green eggs – are all clearly visible.

Grass frogs have translucent bellies, showing off their internal organs. (Berkeley. Edu)

The new species named glass frog Mashpi (Mashpi hyalinobatrachium) and the nouns glass frog (Names in hyalinobatrachium), were found on the south and north banks of the Guayllabamba River in the Andes Valley, respectively. the specimens’ identical appearance and size led the team to initially believe that the frogs belonged to the same species. However, a DNA analysis of amphibians revealed important genetic differences.

Juan Manuel Guayasamin, a evolutionary A biologist at the University of San Francisco in Quito who led the study, says the frogs are an example of the region’s “cryptic diversity” – different species that look identical. The searcher affirms this is why it is difficult to determine the exact number of unique species in the biodiverse area.

Guayasamin has a the theory on what keeps the two species, which live 21 km apart, distinct. “What we think is that the valley prevented these frogs from mixing with each other,” he says. “When you have populations separated by a geographic barrier, you start to have a accumulation of mutations in each group, and over time they become genetically different.”

The two new frog species look identical. (Berkeley.edu)

Andrea Teran, a herpetologist at the Jambatu Research Center in Quito, says the new discovery shows that there are many other species in the region still unknown to science. The scientist says, “The topography that’s enough complex, with many unexplored niches and hard-to-reach areas, so endemism is very high. In fact, when talking about amphibians in Ecuador, the most diverse the place is the Andes, not the Amazon.”

Guayasamin and his team, who published their findings in the journal zoological science on March 18, 2022, agreed with Teran. Scientists have advised the two new sspecies are listed as endangered. They say the new discovery strong points the importance to protect the Andes region from human activities, such as Deforestation and mining.

Resources: Nationalgeographic.com, cnet.com, sci-news.com

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