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Newly discovered Tanzanian frog already facing extinction

Monday, March 6, 2017 5:15
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Desdemona Despair

The newly discovered Ruvu spiny reed frog (Hyperolius ruvuensis), from Ruvu South Forest Reserve in Tanzania, has never been photographed in the wild and is only known from museum specimens collected in 2001. Photo: Chris Barret

By Benji Jones
2 March 2017

(Mongabay) – You don’t have to travel far to discover a new species – just head to the natural history museum.

At least that’s how Chris Barratt, a doctoral student at the University of Basel in Switzerland, discovered Hyperolius ruvuensis, the newest species to be named in the clad of so-called spiny-throated reed frogs. The species has been preserved in the Museum of Natural History in London for more than a decade, but was never properly examined and described, Barrett says. That is, until now.

“It sat in the museum for 14 years before we took it out,” Barratt told Mongabay. “We were hoping it would still have DNA [needed for identification], and it did.”

Barratt and his colleague had a hunch that the museum specimen of now-named H. ruvuensis – then listed as another species in the spiny-throated clad – was indeed a new frog. The unusual pattern of the frog’s spines was the first clue, which prompted Barratt to analyze specimen’s DNA and morphology. Published last month in the Herpetological Journal, his analysis revealed that the specimen is in fact a new species of spiny-throated reed frog, a clade of seven species named for what he describes as a “beard” of spines, which serve a purpose still unknown.

The “new” species was collected more than 15 years ago in Ruvu South Forest Reserve, a small protected area just outside of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. At the time, David Emmett – then a wildlife biologist with the NGO The Society for Environmental Exploration – was surveying the reserve. […]

H. ruvuensis is likely “microendemic” to the reserve, meaning it’s found nowhere else on the planet, according to the study. In other words: if habitat in the reserve is wiped out, the species will be, too. [more]

Newly discovered Tanzanian frog already facing extinction


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