New frog found on the ‘roof of Indochina’

On the ‘roof of Indochina’, the peninsula comprised of Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia, a new frog species has been discovered at the end of last year by a team of Australian and Vietnamese researchers. The new species, Botsford’s leaf frog (Leptolalax botsfordi) is the 37th species in the genus of Leptolalax, small-bodied frogs with calls that resemble insect sounds, all living in the southern or western part of Asia. It is named after the British scientist Christopher Botsford, in honor of his work on conservation of amphibian biodiversity and scientific capacity building in the region . For those who believe that new species discoveries are becoming more and more rare now, since scientists have already been working for a couple of hundred of years on describing our biodiversity, the genus of Leptolalax proves otherwise, as over 30% of the species in this genus have only been discovered in the last 5 years.

Botsford's leaf frog (Leptolalax botsfordi). Credit: Jill Rowley

Botsford’s leaf frog (Leptolalax botsfordi). Credit: Jill Rowley

Jill Rowley, the Australian scientist who first came across this new species, explains to Mongabay how she heard the ‘chirp’ of the frog once they were up the mountain, which was distinct from the call of  all the known species in this area, leading her to the conviction that she heard an entirely unknown species. While her fellow team members were recording one frog after the other in the streams on Mount Fansipan, she frantically went searching through the leaf litter to identify the unknown ‘chirper’. Her joy was immense when she finally turned up the frog and it turned out to be indeed this new Botsford’s leaf frog.  Finding it way up on this mountain, around an elevation of 2750 meters, means that this species is the highest living representative of the genus. Based on its more sturdy build  and the higher amount of body fat than the other Leptolalax species, L. botsfordi seems well adapted to the harsher conditions on the ‘roof’ of the Indochina peninsula.

Botsford's leaf frog (Leptolalax botsfordi) in its natural habitat. Credit: Jill Rowley

Botsford’s leaf frog (Leptolalax botsfordi) in its natural habitat. Credit: Jill Rowley

The find of this new frog comes shortly after the discovery of the Sterling’s toothed toad (Oreolalax sterlingae)  on this same ‘roof of Indochina’, Mount Fansipan. Its peak reaches an elevation of 3143 meters and although the mountain is a popular tourist destination, it is poorly explored by scientists. Due to the many tourists however anthropogenic pressure is quite high and the habitat of these species is threatened by pollution and degradation. With only a few spots in the region (within 250 kilometers) that reach similar altitudes, distribution of the Botsford’s leaf frog is assumed to be very limited. Add to that the high vulnerability of tropical mountains to climate change and we can see that conservation efforts, even immediately after the discovery of this frog, are necessary to ensure the survival of this species.

The original article form Mongabay can be found here

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