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New Frog Species in NYC Discovered From Chorus Calls

Oct 30, 2014 10:26 AM EDT

A new frog species was discovered in New York City from a display of odd chorus calls, reports say.

Even in one of the most densely populated places on Earth, the amphibian managed to hide for decades in plain sight. As reported in the journal PLOS ONE, the leopard frog Rana kauffeldi gave itself away when lead researcher Jeremy Feinberg, of Rutgers University, heard its odd chorusing call in wetlands on Staten Island. It is the first new frog species found in the region for nearly 30 years.

"Frogs have very stereotyped calls within a species, so I knew this was different," the ecologist told BBC News.

Feinberg and colleagues first revealed the existence of the new amphibian two years ago in the journal Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution. However, they initially focused on the unique genome of the then-unnamed frog, which up until that point was considered a southern leopard frog.

This time around, the research team remarks not on the native New Yorker's distinctive leopard-print skin in shades of brown and green, but the odd mating calls of the male frogs. What National Geographic describes as a "single-note unpulsed chuck" is drastically different from the leopard frog's characteristic long snore sounds.

Even more amazing that the researchers were able to distinguish the two calls was the fact that they heard them at all. R. kauffeldi breeds for just a few weeks each year, and within that brief window you have to strain to hear them above the sound of spring peepers, another frog species, in the wetlands.

"That helps keep them hidden," Feinberg said. "You have to win the jackpot to hear them."

The vociferous species inhabits parts of New York City, where it was first found, but the press release notes that its range also extends to coastal lowland regions from Connecticut to northeastern North Carolina.

But since R. kauffeldi requires wetlands for survival - you won't find them hopping around downtown Manhattan streets or even in Central Park - scientists worry that the need for such expansive territory in a highly urban area could spell trouble for the species.

"This frog is entitled to live, and we're entitled to our houses, too," Feinberg told BBC. "So I think we have to consider that this is a planet that we share."

[Credit: American Museum of Natural History]

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