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January 22, 2009

Frog BOOM!

-15 NEW SPECIES DISCOVERED IN TANZANIA-
22 January 2009

Research in one of the most important biodiversity hotspots in the world has revealed fifteen new species of amphibians and a chameleon species. The findings are a result of biological surveys carried out in the South Nguru Mountains, Tanzania.

Three of the new species were discovered by scientists working for the British volunteer organisation, Frontier. They include a bizarre toad which looks as though it has crawled straight from the pages of a Marvel comic.

The toad, which has yet to be given an official scientific name, is the largest forest toad ever described in the genus Nectophrynoides. Its size and massive glands makes it distinct from known species and it appears in a variety of colours including orange and black, yellow and green, and red. This species appears to be restricted to only a few remote valleys deep in the South Nguru forests. However, in the valleys where it is found it is the commonest amphibian, making its presence known with a distinctive 'echoing drip' or 'plink' call.

“As soon as we saw this toad we knew it was something special,” said Nisha Owen who led Frontier’s research program in South Nguru. “It’s such a strange looking beast, and its call is very distinctive.

Frontier’s other discoveries included a new species of tree frog with red eyes, which was added to the genus Leptopelis, and a burrowing toad with a distinctive long snout, of the genus Probreviceps. The findings were reported last month in the journal Acta Herpetologica.

A conservation plan is now underway in the area to address the threats to these unique animals, because the Nguru South area is not only home to colourful amphibians. It houses more than fifty villages, majority of which are dependent on agriculture. As a result the local fauna faces severe threats as the agricultural land encroaches on the forests.

“It’s really important that these forests are protected from further agricultural degradation”, says Owen, who is now carrying out doctoral research into human-wildlife conflicts at the University of Leeds. “The montane forests of Tanzania hold some of the highest levels of biodiversity in the world, but they are also under severe threat from deforestation.”

The research was an international collaboration between Frontier and the University of Dar es Salaam, the Tridentine Museum of Natural Science in Italy and the Tanzania Forest Conservation Group. Frontier’s research was funded by the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund as part of a wider survey programme in the Eastern Arc, the world’s ‘hottest’ biodiversity hotspot.

Citation: Menegon, M., Doggart, N., & Owen, N. (2008) The Nguru Mountains of Tanzania, an outstanding hotspot of herpetofaunal diversity. Acta Herpetologica: 3, 107-127

Further press information:
Emma Goodwin / Lucy Quilliam
KTA Public Relations
020 7352 1088

Posted by sue at January 22, 2009 10:30 AM

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