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Ribbit! Frog species found in New York City has a croak of its own

By Shelby Lin Erdman, CNN Radio
March 18, 2012 -- Updated 2140 GMT (0540 HKT)
Scientists say the new leopard frog species, which is currently unnamed, has a
Scientists say the new leopard frog species, which is currently unnamed, has a "peculiar croak."
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • New frog species discovered in New York City area
  • It has a distinctive croak, scientists find
  • Leopard frog species doesn't yet have a name

(CNN) -- Amid the skyscrapers, sidewalks and subways of New York City, scientists have discovered a new species of frog within view of the Statue of Liberty. In fact, the researchers who discovered the frog say the center of its range is Yankee Stadium in the Bronx.

The newly identified animal is among more than a dozen distinct leopard frog species. And, while it's fairly common to find new species of animals in the remote wildness or in rain forests, to discover one in marshes and ponds within an urban area such as New York is nothing short of amazing, according to Leslie Rissler, program director with the National Science Foundation.

"The species is completely distinct," said Rissler, part of the team of scientists that found the species. "It has a very small range and it was quite a surprise to find a new species in New York City."

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Researchers used DNA testing to find this so-called cryptic species, which is one species hidden within another.

Researchers basically stumbled across the new frog, Rissler said, adding the discovery is "extremely rare."

"We were doing a study on a related organism, the southern leopard frog, in my lab at the University of Alabama and another colleague contacted us to say we have these frogs that look like southern leopard frogs, but they don't quite sound like southern leopard frogs, can you add some of these to your genetic analyses? And we did and that sort of began the study."

Scientist Jeremy Feinberg at Rutgers University first noticed the new amphibian sounded different from the northern and southern leopard frogs and that it had "weird-sounding calls." Feinberg said the frog had a "peculiar croak."

It didn't have the "long snore" or "rapid chuckle" other leopard frogs have. The new frog had a "short, repetitive croak."

Feinberg says he knew from the get-go there was something odd about the frog. "When I first heard these frogs calling, it was so different, I knew something was very off."

And the DNA analysis proved him right.

The species is so new it doesn't even have a name yet. And Rissler said there won't be any naming contests for this new amphibian, either.

"I think some people would like to name it, who knows, Staten I, a lot of things to do with New York City," Rissler told CNN. "However, we have to go back to these different museums, find the exact voucher specimen that was used for these other species and, if there is an old name that's available then we will use that name because that's the proper way to do it, rather than taking bids on who wants to name the new frog in New York."

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