A new species of leopard frog has been discovered…on Staten Island. That’s right, only the second new frog species found in the continental United States in the past 30 years was first found near a pond on Staten Island. It turns out this new frog — named Rana kauffeldi — actually has a range in a narrow coastal ribbon from Connecticut to northeastern North Carolina. The new frog had not been identified until now because of its small numbers and similarity to the southern leopard frog.
New frog species named after herpetologist Carl Kauffeld
The study describing the new frog species was published Wednesday, October 29th in the academic journal PLOS ONE. In the article, the researchers describe what makes this new frog different enough that it deserves a new species designation. They decided to name the new frog species Rana kauffeldi after the great herpetologist Carl Kauffeld, who speculated 50 years ago that an unidentified leopard frog might reside somewhere in New York City.
Statement from researchers
“It’s a pretty unique event,” noted Rutgers University ecologist Jeremy Feinberg, one of several researchers who made the discovery of the new frog species.
“There’s one population in Staten Island where all it would take is filling in one pond, and it would be gone,” Feinberg went on to say. He also explained that what habitat does remain is fragmented, producing isolated populations that probably won’t have the genetic diversity necessary for long-term species survival.
Located because of unique call
The skin of the new frog species has small distinctive spots, but the most unique characteristic is the mating call of the males. Their mating call is a “single-note unpulsed chuck,” unlike the pulsing and snore-like calls of the other East Coast leopard frog species.
In fact, the distinct call is what led the researchers to the new frog, Feinberg noted. Researchers including himself would hear the unusual “chuck” sound above the pulses of the other leopard frogs occasionally during field research. Then it dawned on them that the two calls almost never occurred in the same habitat.
Closer examination showed that R. kauffeldi predominated in open-canopied coastal marshes, “places where you can almost see and smell the ocean,” said Feinberg, and the bottomland floodplains relatively close to river mouths.
The researchers note that hearing the mating calls at all was fortunate given R. kauffeldi breeds for just a few weeks a year. And their calls are all but drowned out by the sound of spring peepers.
“That helps keep them hidden,” said Feinberg. “You have to win the jackpot to hear them.”