Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Two new species of frog identified in Australia


Unusual behaviour - Dad looks after the eggs
June 2012. Two new species of frog have been identified in Australia, including one unique to Hinchinbrook Island, following studies of their genetics and mating calls. 
Research published by James Cook University's Dr Conrad Hoskin and colleagues shows that this particular north Queensland rainforest frog really consists of three species.
"Even though these three species look and sound quite similar to us as humans, there is very little interbreeding between them. This is in large part due to the degree of genetic difference among them but also probably due to the differences in mating call. They probably don't find each other attractive or perhaps they don't even recognize each other as potential mates," Dr Hoskin said.
Ornate Nursery-frog
Detailed research on variation in genetics and mating calls across populations of the Ornate Nursery-frog (Cophixalus ornatus) over the past decade has revealed that one species is really three.
The Ornate Nursery-frog was formerly considered to be found through much of the mountainous rainforest of the Wet tropics region, between approximately Townsville and Port Douglas.
However, the findings, published in the international science journal The American Naturalist, show that there are substantial genetic differences between populations in the northern half of the range, those in the southern half of the range, and those on Hinchinbrook Island.
The genetic data shows that these populations diverged from each other millions of years ago. Where the north and south frogs overlap in distribution, there is very little hybridization between them.
Dr Hoskin said that the populations are so different that they represent three different species, one in the north of the Wet Tropics, one in the south, and one on Hinchinbrook Island. He has now described and named the new species in the most recent edition of the international science journal Zootaxa.
The northern populations retain the original name, the Ornate Nursery-frog, because that is where the first specimens came from in the late 1800s.

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