Science and Health

How A Chorus Led Scientists To A New Frog Species

A frog noticed by a conservationist on New York's Staten Island has been confirmed as a new species after extensive study and genetic testing.

How A Chorus Led Scientists To A New Frog Species
Feinberg et al. / CC BY 3.0

A new species of frog has been officially confirmed close to 80 years after its existence was first theorized. 

The frog, Rana kauffeldi, is a type of leopard frog, and the process of establishing it as a new species started with this — the frog's unique chorus, or its advertisement call, as it's known by scientists. 

As all the headlines have read, the discovery in that video technically happened in New York City, but that doesn't tell the whole story. Scientists didn't find the frog hiding in the subway or somewhere in Central Park. 

Instead, they made the discovery on Staten Island, sometimes called "the forgotten borough," in the island's extensive wetlands, which constitute one of the last remaining examples of the city's marshy past. (Video via The Trust for Public Land)

It's also appropriate the frog was noticed on the island considering the first person to posit its existence was Staten Island resident and herpetologist Carl Kauffeld back in 1936. (Video via New York Daily News)

MATT LANIER VIA NEW YORK DAILY NEWS"He was sort of the first Steve Irwin."

As the study notes, his proposal that there were three species of leopard frog in the Northeast wasn't widely accepted, and it wasn't until the scientists from the study closely examined the frogs and tested them genetically that the new species could be confirmed. 

So that's why the new frog takes the species name "Kauffeldi," in his honor. As for its common name? The BBC might have inadvertently taken a stab at it:

BBC: "The Staten Island frogs."

Though scientists have been taking reports of its distinctive call over the past couple of years and have charted that the species reaches as far south as North Carolina, which is why they've named it instead, the "Atlantic Coast leopard frog."

The study says, despite its very recent confirmation, the frog is already a vulnerable species because of its highly specific habitat needs and the threat of habitat loss. 

This video includes an image from Feinberg et al. / CC BY 3.0 and music from Broke For Free / CC BY NC 3.0.