New Treefrog Species Discovered Near Brazil’s Abandoned Trans-Amazonian Highway

November 24, 2017

A new tree frog species has been discovered on a stretch of abandoned Trans-Amazonian highway in Brazil by researchers with the National Institute of Research of the Amazon.

jaguar snouted tree frog

Rafael de Fraga

The jaguar snouted tree frog is so named because jaguars were also spotted in the area which the amphibian was discovered.

The frog, named the jaguar snouted tree frog (Scinax onca), is the 103rd species in the Scinax genus, and the 28th known to occur in the Amazon. It hails from the Purus-Madeira Interfluve rainforest that the highway runs through. It was named as such due to its spotted skin and because the researchers happened upon several large jaguars in the area where they discovered the frog. 

"During the sampling expeditions we were also lucky enough to spot several jaguars," Rafael de Fraga, a herpetologist with the institute told National Geographic. “The highway is definitely more dangerous than jaguars [because] many people have died there by car crash or fallen bridges."

The color of the frog ranges from a mottled green in coloration with black spots on its back with a yellowish belly with black spots, to a pale light yellow with black spots on its head and mouth. The iris of its eyes are orange and its pupils are black. It is less than two inches in length and is sexually dimorphic.

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When de Fraga and his colleagues first heard the male’s frog call, which he said sounds like a wood saw, they immediately thought that the call was coming from a new species. Genetic analysis confirmed that the frog was indeed new to science.

De Fraga thinks the frog is already endangered, and the plans to recover the abandoned highway won’t bode well for it and other species that live near the highway. 

"We are not totally opposed to the highway recovering, because many local people live completely isolated from basic resources such as hospitals," de Fraga told National Geographic.

Fraga said that they are not totally opposed to the renovation of the highway, but thinks that with it, the region may be converted to an urban area without thinking about the biodiversity of the area.

The paper describing the new species can be read on the Zookeys website

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