Cryptic Forest Frogs, Aromobatidae, are small Frogs found across the tropical regions of Central and South America. They are closely related to the Poison Dart Frogs, Dendrobatidae, which they closely resemble, though they are generally less toxic, and like these Frogs show a high level of parental care, often nursing their eggs in a pool on the ground, then carrying the newly hatched larvae to a separate location, often a water body in the rainforest canopy, where they can mature.
The sky islands of the Guiana Shield (sandstone massifs with steep sides and areas of isolated forest on top, made famous by Arthur Conan Doyle in his book The Lost World, in which he hypothesised that Dinosaurs and other prehistoric life-forms might have survived on such a sky island), are considered to be a diversity hotspot for these Frogs, with many islands hosting their own unique Frog species. However recent studies have suggested that many species in the area have recently suffered either dramatic reductions in population size or complete extinction, possibly due to the effects of global warming, as these species tend to have very specific ecological requirements and are unable to move away from changing environments on the sky islands. This has prompted renewed efforts by herpetologists to understand these Frogs, their diversity, and environmental needs, in this remote region.
In a paper published in the journal ZooKeys on 22 May 2018, Philippe Kok and Michaël Nicolaï of the Department of Biology at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel, and Amy Lathrop and Ross MacCulloch of the Centre for Biodiversity and Conservation Biology at the Royal Ontario Museum, describe a new species of Cryptic Forest Frog from the Wokomung Sky Island of southern Guyana.
The new species is placed in the genus Anomaloglossus and given the specific name meansi, in honour of biologist and ecologist Bruce Means, for his work on the exploration sky islands of the Guiana Shield and its biodiversity. These Frogs are a rich chestnut brown on their dorsal surface, with reddish brown flanks and a pale brown underside with darker mottling. They range from 18.15-18.86 mm in length for adult males, and 17.66-21.26 in adult females, which is roughly medium sized for a member of the genus.
Anomaloglossus meansi in life. (A) Female, dorsal view, (B) female, dorsolateral view, (C) male, dorsolateral view. Amy Lathrop and Bruce Means in Kok et al. (2018).
The species was found on the flanks (not the tops) of the Wokomung and Ayanganna sky islands of southern Guyana, at altitudes of between 1234 and 1490 m on the ground or understory plants beneath a cloud forest canopy; they appeared to be more common towards the lower end of this altitude range, possibly because the canopy was high and more open, as opposed to a lower, more closed canopy at the upper extent of the range. Little is known of the species ecology and population structure, making it impossible to assess its conservation status.
Habitat of Anomaloglossus meansi on the Wokomung Massif. (A) Photograph (looking northeast) of the highest part of the massif; the plateau in the centre of the photo is the tallest part of the entire Wokomung Massif. (B) Cloud forest at about 1385 m elevation. Bruce Means in Kok et al. (2018).
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