Published: Tuesday, 23 November 2021 00:27
The two new frog species have been scientifically described with the help of citizen scientists and their recordings through the FrogID app.
The two new species — named the slender bleating tree frog (Litoria balatus) and the screaming tree frog (Litoria quiritatus) — were once thought to be one species, the bleating tree frog (Litoria dentata).
The first species is known from south-eastern Queensland, while the second occurs from the mid-coast of New South Wales to north-eastern Victoria.
“The bleating tree frog is well known to residents along the east coast of Australia for its extremely loud, piercing, almost painful call,” said FrogID project leader Dr. Jodi Rowley, a herpetologist at the Australian Museum Research Institute and the University of New South Wales.
“These noisy frog bachelors are super loud when they are trying to woo their mates.”
Dr. Rowley and colleagues analyzed many calls submitted to the FrogID project from across Queensland and New South Wales to differentiate between the calls.
“Our examination revealed that their calls differ slightly in how long, how high-pitched and how rapid-fire they are,” Dr. Rowley said.
“The slender bleating tree frog has the shortest, most rapid-fire and highest pitched calls.”
The team’s genetic work was the first clue that there are actually three species.
“Although similar in appearance, and in their piercing calls, the frogs are genetically very different,” said Professor Steven Donnellan, chief research scientist at South Australian Museum.
“I’m still amazed that it’s taken us so long to discover that the loudest frog in Australia is not one but three species.”
“How many more undescribed species in the ‘quiet achiever’ category are awaiting their scientific debut?”
The three species vary subtly in appearance:
(i) the slender bleating tree frog is slender in appearance, and has a white line extending down its side, and males have a distinctly black vocal sac;
(ii) the screaming tree frog isn’t nearly as slender, doesn’t have the white line extending down its side, and males have a bright yellow vocal sac; in the breeding season, the entire body of males of the screaming tree frog also tend to turn a lemon yellow;
(iii) the robust bleating tree frog is most similar in appearance to the screaming tree frog, but males have a brownish vocal sac that turns a dull yellow or yellowish brown when fully inflated.
“These new frog species brings the total number of native frog species known from Australia to 246, including the recently recognized Gurrumul’s toadlet and the Wollumbin pouched frog,” Dr. Rowley said.
“The research and help from our citizen scientists highlights the valuable contribution that everyone can make to better understand and conserve our frogs.”
The team’s paper was published in the journal Zootaxa.
J.J.L. Rowley et al. 2021. Two new frog species from the Litoria rubella species group from eastern Australia. Zootaxa 5071 (1): 1-41; doi: 10.11646/zootaxa.5071.1.1
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