Japanese scientists have discovered that a common species of Asian tree frog may actually be two separate species based on their genetic data.
The ongoing research project led by Ikuo Miura, PhD, an Associate Professor in Amphibian Research Center at Hiroshima University puts into spotlight the Hyla japonica tree frog species, which is found all over Japan, the Korean peninsula, eastern China, and eastern Russia. Experts around the globe are already shipping genetic samples from their own local frog populations to reference any potential evolutionary relationship.
Sparked by the Miura's further studies on sex determination and population dynamics in amphibians, which included Asian species, the study looks into the possibility of ancestors of modern frog populations traveling either into or out of Japan by two separate routes: from the North on a chain of islands between Russia and Japan, and from the South along a land bridge on the Philippine Sea Plate between South Korea and Japan. Japanese H. japonica populations may have been isolated into separate East and West groups, Eureka Alert reports.
The experts have also noted the same separation between East and West Japan in other species of frogs and skinks. According to Miura, the scientific community has no definitive information about exactly what caused the divide between East and West Japan, but suggests the possibility of the expansion of ancient basin associated with volcanic activity in central Japan.
Miura along with Yuya Higaki, a fourth-year bachelor's degree student, are presently conducting genetic analysis on 50 populations of H. japonica from across Japan. A part of Miura's larger research interests in sex determination and its influence on speciation and evolution, study's initial findings will be on November 26th at the annual conference of the Herpetological Society of Japan.
If proven that indeed H. japonica is actually two different species, researchers would need to do thorough research of the history foreign explorers who was granted official access to Japan - dating as far back as 1826 to the times of German-British naturalist Albert Gunther, and German botanists Philipp Siebold and Heinrich Burger - before they can give new scientific names.
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