Wednesday 9 May 2012

A cryptic species of Ground Frog from southern Chile.

During a series of expeditions to the temperate Nothofagus (Southern Beach) forests near Valdivia City in the Coastal Range of Southern Chile, researchers from the Facultad de Ciencias at the Universidad Austral de Chile found a number of frogs resembling the Rose Ground Frog, Eupsophus roseus, but differing somewhat in reproductive habits. 

In a paper published in the journal Zootaxa on 9 May 2012, three of those researchers, José Nuñez, Felipe Rabanal and Ramon Formas, formally describe the frogs as a new species, Eupsophus altor, or Oncol's Ground Frog.

The locations where the new Ground Frog was discovered. (1) Cerro Oncol. (2) Curiñanco. (3) Chan-Chán. (4) Alepue. Nuñez et al. (2012).

Eupsophus altor is a reddish-pink frog with light grey spots, roughly 40 mm in length. It has a longer, higher pitched call than E. roseus, and reproduces in a quite different way. E. roseus, like most amphibians, lays its eggs in pools, where the tadpoles develop. E. altor, in contrast, lays its in moist patches eggs on land, such as underneath logs, and its tadpoles hatch and develop in a terrestrial environment, guarded by the male frog.

(A) Adult male Eupsophus altor. (B) Male with eggs. (C) Male with tadpoles. (D) Male with late-stage tadpoles. Scale bars are 10 mm. Nuñez et al. (2012).

Molecular studies also indicated that Eupsophus altor should be considered a separate species, but this certainly would not have been picked up on without the difference in reproductive behavior, leading Nuñez et al. to consider it a cryptic species (a separate species hidden within an apparently homologous population), and therefore to question the number of other cryptic species might be hidden within amphibian populations around the world.

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