Saturday, 6 May 2017

Hyperolius ruvuensis: A new species of Spiny-throated Reed Frog from the Tanzanian coastal forest.

Reed Frogs, Hyperolius spp., are a large group of Hyperoliid Frogs found across much of Sub-Saharan Africa. The Spiny-throated Reed Frogs are a distinctive group within this genus, distinguished by a distinct flap on the throat of the males which almost always bears spines, with many species also having spines on the chest and/or around the groin. These Frogs are restricted to isolated mountains in the Afromontane region of coastal East Africa, a highly fragmented and threatened environment, raising concerns about the conservation prospects of all known species and making it likely that other, unknown, species may be wiped out before they are discovered.

In a paper published in the Herpetological Journal in January 2017, Christopher Barratt of the Biogeography Research Group at the University of Basel, Lucinda Lawson of the Committee on Evolutionary Biology at the University of Chicago, the Field Museum of Natural History and the University of Cincinnati, Gabriela Bittencourt-Silva, also of the Biogeography Research Group at the University of Basel, Nike Doggart and Theron Morgan-Brown of the Tanzania Forest Conservation Group, Peter Nagel, again of the Biogeography Research Group at the University of Basel and Simon Loader, once again of the Biogeography Research Group at the University of Basel and of the University of Roehampton, describe a new species of Spiny-throated Reed Frog from the Ruvu South Forest Reserve in the Pwani Region of Tanzania.

The new species is named Hyperolius ruvuensis, meaning 'from Ruvu'. It is described from four specimens, two males and two females, with the females being significantly larger, at 25.4 and 24.2 mm in length, compared to the males, at 16.8. and 18.7 mm. All are brown with creamy-white mottling on the back and a white underside. The males have a distinct throat flap, which is spined; spines are also present on the chest region of the body.

Male specimen of Hyperolius ruvuensis, in dorsal (A) and ventral (B) views. Scale bar is 1 cm. Barratt et al. (2017).

The species is known only from the Ruvu South Forest Reserve, which although theoretically protected, has undergone severe deforestation for fuelwood, timber and biofuel production during the past 16 years. Given the limited range of the Frog, and the extreme disruption of its native habitat, Barratt et al. recomend that the species be listed as Critically Endangered under the terms of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Threatened Species.

 Habitat change and photographs of Ruvu South Forest Reserve in April 2015. (A) Habitat change from 1998–2014. (B) Grassland swamp area of type locality based on original GPS co-ordinates, (C) Charcoal being transported by motorbike illegally from Ruvu South Forest Reserve, a common sight in the coastal forests. Barratt et al. (2017).

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