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Biodiversity Blog

 

New Tree Frog Named After Biodiversity Center Professor

 hillisi torrent frog pose 1024
 Photo by Gustavo Pazmiño with BIOWEB Ecuador

 

Meet Hyloscirtus hillisi, a newly discovered species of Andean tree frog, named after our own Director of the Biodiversity Center: Dr. David Hillis.

This frog was discovered by a team of researchers from Pontificia Universidad Católica del Ecuador, led by biologist and UT doctoral alum Santiago Ron. The team had been making a difficult two-week expedition to the Cordillera del Cóndo when they made this discovery in a “table top” mountain, elevation 6500-7000 feet.

This region is difficult to access, with many areas still unexplored. The tropical Andes provides an example of a thriving and unique biodiversity, one of the richest areas of the world, with one-sixth of all known plant species living here, and a wide diversity of bird, amphibian, and mammal life.

Hyloscirtus hillisi is 2.5 inches from “snout to vent,” and 6 inches from head to toe. It is dark brown with bright orange flecks. This might lead one to believe the frog is easily spotted. However, in its home near blackwater rivers and brown shrubs, the frog blends into its environment perfectly.

frog claw 
 Photo by Gustavo Pazmiño with BIOWEB Ecuador

Besides its coloring, perhaps the other most notable thing about this species is its prepollux at the base of the thumb. A prepollux is an additional digit on the inner side of the forelimb. It’s not really known what this extra appendage is for, but Ron’s team suggests that it might be used in fights with other males during mating season, or as a defense to puncture the skin of predators.

This frog’s genus contains 37 species of tree frogs that reside along streams from Costa Rica, to the Andes Mountains of Bolivia, Columbia, Ecuador, Peru and Venezuela. Sadly, the existence of this new species is already threatened by extinction. They have a small geographic range, making them more vulnerable to disturbances in their environment. Their location is also near a large-scale Chinese mining company, and some conservation groups have already noted damage to the frog’s habitat. Because of the small range and current habitat loss, researchers are suggesting listing the frogs as “critically endangered.”

The species was named after Dr. David Hillis, a professor at UT and evolutionary biologist, as he has made significant contributions to the study of evolution of amphibians and reptiles. During the 1980s.,Dr. Hillis performed fieldwork in Ecuador that resulted in the discovery of three undescribed species of the H. larinopygion group.

You may see a video from BIOWEB Ecuador of these amazing frogs by clicking the image below:

 Screenshot frog
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