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Scientists Discover New Frog Species in...New York City?

“Here is a brand-new species, and it’s not a species of bacteria or a barely visible insect."

When scientists identify a news species, most would picture it being found in some remote, relatively unexplored place on Earth, such as the Amazon, Australian Outback or an ocean trench. What is less expected is finding a new species hiding in plain sight in one of the most populated cities in the world. But this is exactly where scientists spotted a new species of frog.

A Rutgers doctoral student identified a new species of leopard frog smack dab in the middle of New York City's Staten Island. So how was this brand new species discovered from it's densely populated, urban area? It croaked.

The New York Times reports that its unique mating call gave it away:

On a foray into the wilds of Staten Island in 2009, Jeremy A. Feinberg, a doctoral candidate in ecology and evolution at Rutgers University, heard something strange as he listened for the distinctive mating call of the southern leopard frog — usually a repetitive chuckle. But this was a single cluck.

“I started hearing these calls, and I realized they were really distinct,” Mr. Feinberg said.

Three years later, Mr. Feinberg and four other scientists who joined him in multiple field and laboratory studies, are finally comfortable making their declaration: a new species of leopard frog — as yet unnamed — has been identified in New York City and a number of surrounding counties.

Feinberg identified specimens in parts of New Jersey and to counties north of New York City, all within commuting distance of Manhattan.

Feinberg said in a Rutgers statement that it was surprising that the species went unrecognized for so long. This finding has other biologists surprised as well. The New York Times continues:

“Here is a brand-new species, and it’s not a species of bacteria or a barely visible insect,” said H. Bradley Shaffer, a professor in the department of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of California at Los Angeles. “It’s a big amphibian, and kids have probably been catching and playing with it for years,” he said. “Even in an urban center like New York, where herpetologists have tromped all over for a century or more, there can be new species out there. That shows the importance of urban areas in terms of conservation and biodiversity.”

According to Rutgers, the frog is physically similar to the southern leopard frog, which could have helped mask its identity. Working with Cathy Newman, who is studying for her master's in genetics at University of Alabama, and University of California-Davis, genetic analysis revealed the frogs had different DNA.

 The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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