WIKIMEDIA COMMONS, BRAD SHAFFER
New York City might not be the first place you think of new species being discovered, but according to a study, published online February 2 in Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution, leopard frogs in and around the city may be on track to get their own species name. The research focused on the Tri-State area where the territories of the northern and southern leopard frogs overlap. Though it was already known for its unique call, the frog’s relationship to the two overlapping species was unclear, reported The New York Times.
Researchers performed phylogenetic analyses of both mitochondrial and nuclear DNA to show that the frog—dubbed Rana sp. nov for now—is neither a northern nor southern leopard frog, nor a hybrid. They argue that it’s genetically distinct enough to warrant further investigation into a new species designation.
Rana sp. nov is also unusual in its geographical distribution: its territory covers the very urbanized areas of northern New Jersey, a sliver of mainland New York, and Staten Island. The scientists suggest that the human-heavy environment makes Rana sp. nov especially vulnerable to becoming another victim of habitat fragmentation and argue for proactive conservation measures to preserve New England’s biodiversity. (Hat tip to Wired Science)