Professor discovers new frog species in Amazon

Fernando Marca/Contributing Writer

Alessandro Catenazzi, an assistant professor at FIU who’s research focuses on frog ecology and conservation, recently discovered a new species of frogs while out in the Amazonian Andes.

Catenazzi is currently in the field in Ollachea, Department Puno, in Peru, where he was looking for several frog species that have disappeared from his main field site in a nearby valley due to waves of a highly virulent fungal disease.

Catenazzi told Student Media that he wasn’t actively looking for a new frog species, but he made sure to keep his eye out for new species in such an unexplored area, as the unknown might be left undiscovered.   

Because the area had not been properly studied before, I was also expecting to find new species in the leaf litter. Searching for small frogs in the leaf litter can be tedious, but this is where many unnamed species remain to be discovered in the Amazonian Andes,” said Catenazzi.

Canvassing the surrounding area, Catenazzi’s search led him to remove the uppermost layers of leaf litter and moss by hand, at which point he first saw what appeared to be, and was in fact, a new species of frog.

In order to determine whether the frog was truly a new species, Catenazzi further studied the frog to determine the differences between his subject and other species.

The call was sufficiently distinct from the call of similar species in the same group. Likewise, the body coloration did not match the coloration of known species in the group,” said Catenazzi. “There also are additional distinguishing characters, and genetic analyses confirmed the species is distinct from all other previously named species.”

Further studying his newly named Psychrophrynella glauca, Catenazzi learned that unlike most frogs, this species was very small and entirely terrestrial.

Most frogs start out their life cycles as tadpoles in water, and eventually grow until they can live on land. Catenazzi’s species lay eggs on land, and the embryos develop directly into froglets rather than tadpoles.

Psychrophrynella glauca is only known to be found in the single site where Catenazzi discovered it, in the cloud forest on the eastern slopes of the Andes.

Other species in this genus tend to be closely distributed over small geographic regions. As for now Catenazzi is safely assuming that this frog will only be found in the Ollachea region of the Peruvian cloud forest. He said he will keep looking until he returns to FIU on Tuesday, April 17.


Feature image courtesy of Alessandro Catenazzi.

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