While intrepid researchers often brave through the world's most remote and inhospitable regions in search of previously undocumented lifeforms, it turns out that there are still some to be found in the most crowded concrete jungles, too.
Recently, scientists confirmed the existence of a new species of frog that had been hiding in plain sight -- in New York City.
A few years back, Rutgers University biologist Jeremy Feinberg was walking in Statin Island when he heard a frog sounding an unusual mating call, one quite distinct from the croak of a similar-looking frog known to live in the area. Instead of the long, drawn out sounds of a well-known leopard frog species, these new calls were short and repetitive, reports the New York Times.
After some careful field studies and DNA testing into the mysterious, amphibious crooner, Feinberg and his team are now confirming this week what seemed so implausible in such a densely populated area: they had discovered a new species.
So far, Feinberg says this new species of leopard frog has been positively documented on Staten Island, the New York mainland, and parts of New Jersey, but they are believed to have once populated other parts of New York City as well. Remarkably, after centuries of human habitation in the region -- and no shortage of trained biologists among them -- somehow these frogs evaded recognition as a distinct species.
Bradley Shaffer, professor of ecology at UCLA, believes the findings have implications on how conservationists look at wildlife in well-trod urban areas:
“Here is a brand-new species, and it’s not a species of bacteria or a barely visible insect. It’s a big amphibian, and kids have probably been catching and playing with it for years. 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.”