AboutZoos, Since 2008


Extra­or­di­nary new treefrog dis­cov­ered in the Andes of Ecuador

pub­lished 19 Jan­u­ary 2019 | mod­i­fied 19 Jan­u­ary 2019

A new treefrog species was dis­cov­ered dur­ing a two-​week expe­di­tion to a remote table­top moun­tain at Cordillera del Cón­dor, a largely unex­plored range in the east­ern Andes.

Hillis treefrogAn adult of the recently dis­cov­ered species — Hillis treefrog (Hyloscir­tus hillisi).
Image credit: Gus­tavo Pazmiño, BIOWEB Ecuador. Licensed under Cre­atvie Com­mons Attribution-​NonCommercial-​NoDerivatives 4.0 Inter­na­tional (CC BY-​NC-​ND 4.0)

To reach the table­top, we walked two days along a steep ter­rain. Then, between sweat and exhaus­tion, we arrived to the table­top where we found a dwarf for­est. The rivers had black­wa­ter and the frogs were sit­ting along them, on branches of brown shrubs sim­i­lar in colour to the frogs’ own. The frogs were dif­fi­cult to find, because they blended with their back­ground,” said Alex Achig, one of the field biol­o­gists who dis­cov­ered the new species com­ments on the hard­ships of the expedition.

Hillis treefrog handCuri­ously, the frog has an extra­or­di­nary, enlarged claw-​like struc­ture located at the base of the thumb. Its func­tion is unknown, but it could be that it is used either as a defence against preda­tors or as a weapon in fights between com­pet­ing males.

Hav­ing con­ducted analy­ses of genetic and mor­pho­logic data, sci­en­tists San­ti­ago R. Ron, Mar­cel Caminer, Andrea Varela, and Diego Almeida from the Catholic Uni­ver­sity of Ecuador con­cluded that the frog rep­re­sented a pre­vi­ously unknown species. The frog’s descrip­tion is pub­lished on 19 Decem­ber 2018 in the open-​access jour­nal ZooKeys.

The species name, Hyloscir­tus hillisi, hon­ours Dr. David Hillis, a mem­ber of the National Acad­emy of Sci­ences of the United States of Amer­ica, who dis­cov­ered three closely related frog species in the same genus in the 1980s, while con­duct­ing a series of field trips to the Andes of south­ern Ecuador. Through­out his career, Dr. Hillis has made sig­nif­i­cant con­tri­bu­tions to the knowl­edge of Andean amphib­ians and reptiles.

Despite being newly described, Hyloscir­tus hillisi is already at risk of extinc­tion. It has a small dis­tri­b­u­tion range near a large-​scale min­ing oper­a­tion car­ried out by a Chi­nese com­pany. Habi­tat destruc­tion in the region has been recently doc­u­mented by the NGO Ama­zon Con­ser­va­tion.

(Source: ZooKeys press release via EurekAlert!, 03.01.2019; web­site BIOWEB Ecuador)

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