Hear That? It's New York City's Newest Frog Species

The Atlantic leopard frog went undetected for centuries—until a scientist heard its call in Manhattan.
Oct 30, 2014·
Taylor Hill is an associate editor at TakePart covering environment and wildlife.

Six years ago, researcher Jeremy Feinberg of Rutgers University was concerned about frog losses in the New York and New Jersey area. So he and fellow researchers set out to study what was ailing the local amphibians.

One night, Feinberg heard an unusual croak, different from the typical call of the leopard frog that inhabits the area.

"Frogs have very stereotyped calls within a species, so I knew this was different," the ecologist told BBC News. "But it took me two years to find someone to partner with me on the genetics side."

Now, he has identified that call as belonging to an entirely new city slicker frog species he named Rana kauffeldi. That’s the Atlantic leopard frog, to you and me.

It’s the 19th leopard frog species identified in the world, and its range appears to stretch 485 miles along the East Coast of the United States. How the species went undetected in the nation’s most populous city remains a mystery.

“It is incredible and exciting that a new species of frog could be hiding in plain sight in New York City and existing from Connecticut to North Carolina,” Joanna Burger, Rutgers professor and coauthor of the study, said in a statement.

So what caught Feinberg’s ear that fateful night in 2008 near the Statue of Liberty? A short, repetitive croak—almost a lurching—that Feinberg could tell didn’t fit the typical “long snore” associated with other leopard frogs.

Now that we know the frog exists, Feinberg says we need to protect it.

“Their naturally limited range coupled with recent unexplained disappearances from places like Long Island underscores the importance of this discovery," Feinberg says, "and the value that conservation efforts might have in the long-term survival of this urban species."