An international team of scientists has discovered a cryptic new species of fanged frog living on Mindoro and Semirara Islands of the central Philippines.
Fanged frogs are members of Limnonectes, a large genus of frogs that includes at least 75 scientifically recognized species.
They are distributed from India to China and Indochina, through the Thai-Malaysia Peninsula, and across the Sunda Shelf landmasses (Borneo, Sumatra, and Java), the Malukus, the Lesser Sunda island chain, parts of western New Guinea, and the Philippines.
Genetic samples of the new species, the Mindoro fanged frog (Limnonectes beloncioi), were collected several years ago on Mindoro Island in the central Philippines but weren’t analyzed until recently.
Because of its nearly identical physical similarity to a fanged frog on the island of Palawan, called the Acanth’s fanged frog (Limnonectes acanthi), it was assumed to be the same species.
However, because the fanged frogs inhabit islands separated by miles and miles of ocean, University of Kansas doctoral student Mark Herr and colleagues had doubts they were the same species, in part because they had different-sounding calls.
The researchers decided to analyze the frogs’ genome and determined the Mindoro fanged frog qualified as its own distinct species.
New Fanged Frog Species Discovered in Philippines
“This is what we call a cryptic species because it was hiding in plain sight in front of biologists, for many, many years,” Herr said.
“Scientists for the last 100 years thought that these frogs were just the same species as frogs on a different island in the Philippines because they couldn’t tell them apart physically.”
“We ran a bunch of analyses — and they do indeed look identical to the naked eye — however, they are genetically isolated.”
“We also found differences in their mating calls. They sound quite different. So, it was a case of using acoustics to determine that the species was different, as well as the new genetic information.”
“The frogs’ fangs likely are used in combat for access to prime mating sites and to protect themselves from predators,” he added.
“The Mindoro fanged frog, a stream frog, is sometimes hunted by people for food.”
The team’s paper was published in the journal Ichthyology & Herpetology.