June 27, 2019 | 84° F

Researcher discovers new frog species in New York

A new species of frog, which has a very narrow mating window and is silent for most of the year, was recently discovered on Staten Island, New York, said Jeremy Feinberg, a doctoral student in the Rutgers Graduate School in New Brunswick.

Feinberg was at a frog extinction event on Long Island when he was told about the colony on Staten Island. Initially thought to be Southern Leopard Frogs, studies in New Jersey and Connecticut confirmed these creatures were different.

“After three years of working in New Jersey, I knew what [Southern Leopard Frogs] should sound like,” he said. “And those new ones sounded nothing like what they should have.”

The new frog will formally be known as “Rana kauffeldi,” in honor of Carl Kauffeld, who theorized the existence of an unknown species of frog more than 80 years ago, Feinberg said.  

The common name for the new species is the Atlantic Coast Leopard Frog, he said. 

This new amphibian likely went undiscovered for so long due to its coloring and mating calls, said Joanna Burger, a distinguished professor in the Division of Life Sciences in the School of Arts and Sciences.

It looks similar to other frog types in the region, which would not be seen by casual observers, she said. 

The patterning and genetics were clues to discovering the frog’s uniqueness, said Matthew Schlesinger, chief zoologist at the New York Natural Heritage Program. 

“The discovery is unusual because the [New York City] metropolitan area is well studied and highly urbanized,” he said in an email. “[It is] not the kind of place typically associated with biodiversity discovery.”

Precise measurements of the frogs’ body types were taken to help note the differences, he said. 

A paper listing the differences between the Southern Leopard Frog and the Northern Leopard Frog took more than two years to write, he said. It lists the third “genetic lineage,” which is the Atlantic Coast Leopard Frog.

This species lives on large open wetlands, Burger said. The restricted habitat requirement means these wetlands should be protected.

The Atlantic Coast Leopard Frog is thought to be the species that actually went extinct on Long Island, rather than the Southern Leopard Frog, Feinberg said. The next step is to confirm this by studying the tadpoles he is raising. 

“My entire committee was really excited about this [discovery],” he said. “They patted me on the back and said ‘finish your actual dissertation.’”

Nikhilesh De

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