These tiny frogs are a big discover for one Michigan ecologist: BTN LiveBIG

Photos: Rudolf von May/ Jiri Moravec

These tiny frogs are a big discover for one Michigan ecologist: BTN LiveBIG

Hi. How’s your summer going? Are you getting to the beach for a little R&R? Did you pack the family in the station wagon and light out for Wally World? Maybe, just kicking it in the backyard hammock with a tall glass of iced tea?

Last question: did you discover any previously unknown species of tree frogs? No. Well then, your summer is distinctly different from that of University of Michigan ecologist Rudolf von May.

In a paper recently published in the journal Zootaxa, May and his colleagues, including lead author Edward Lehr of Illinois Wesleyan University, outline the discovery of the frogs during an expedition into the Pui Pui Protected Forest in the Peruvian Andes. This brings the total number of frog species formally discovered by the team to five since 2012, with more to be announced in the near future.

“These discoveries demonstrate the need for further scientific exploration of such Andean habitats,” said May, speaking with the Michigan’s news service. “While the Pui Pui Protected Forest was established in 1985, virtually no biological surveys were conducted in the park for nearly three decades, and the potential for additional discoveries is enormous.”

The three new species belong to a large family of land-breeding frogs prevalent in the Andes. Taking advantage of the region’s moist environments, these frogs lay eggs which hatch fully formed froglets rather than aquatic tadpoles.

The Pui Pui Rubber Frog (Pristimantis puipui) derives its name from the lake-studded park where it was found, Pui Pui, which means “eye of water” in the local Quechua language.

The Hill Dweller Rubber Frog (Pristimantis bounides) was discovered high in the tropical mountains of the protected park.

The Humboldt’s Rubber Frog (Pristimantis humboldti) was named in honor of the German naturalist Alexander von Humboldt, whose travels through the Americas at the turn of the 19th century helped forge our modern understanding of the natural world.

Pui Pui was chosen for a number of different reasons, chief among them that its largely unexplored landscape, a mix of cloud forests and grasslands, has the capability of sustaining a wide variety of amphibian life.

Funding for the expedition and study came from the National Geographic Society, National Science Foundation and the Servicio Nacional de Áreas Naturales Protegidas por el Estado, Peru’s park service.

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