image via New York Times

If you think cities are devoid of nature and wildlife, think again. Last fall, scientists announced that they discovered a new bee species in the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, and now, a new group of researchers have identified a new species of leopard frog. After four years of studies, Jeremy Feinberg and four other scientists are finally sure that they have discovered an entirely new amphibian — right here in New York City. Much like the Brooklyn bee, the new frog, yet to be named, has been living among us for who knows how long, and Feinberg first took notice of it because of its unique croak.

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There are more than a dozen leopard frogs in the world, ranging from Canada to Central America. The new frog was thought to be the southern leopard frog for a long time, as it closely resembles it. In fact, the frogs look so similar that one scientist said he wouldn’t know which one he was holding unless he was told. Its limited range is within commuting distance from Midtown Manhattan, spanning from Trenton, NJ, in the south, to Putnam County, NY, to the north.

“Here is a brand-new species, and it’s not a species of bacteria or a barely visible insect,” said H. Bradley Shaffer to the New York Times. Shaffer is a professor in the department of ecology and evolutionary biology at the UCLA. “It’s a big amphibian, and kids have probably been catching and playing with it for years,” he said. “Even in an urban center like New York, where herpetologists have tromped all over for a century or more, there can be new species out there. That shows the importance of urban areas in terms of conservation and biodiversity.”

The scientists tested the frog’s DNA against other leopard frogs and found that its lineage is clearly genetically different. The most noticeable physical difference is the frog’s croak. While southern leopard frogs have a “repetitive chuckle,” the new frog has a single cluck. So far, the frog has been found on Staten Island, the Meadowlands and the Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge in New Jersey, Putnam and Orange Counties in New York, and central Connecticut. The research team will continue to survey the area for the frogs.

Via New York Times