Pets

New-to-science toad species discovered on university campus in Peruvian Amazon

For the second time in his life, researcher Rommel Rojas Zamora has identified a new species of toad on the campus of the university where he is working



Life



28 June 2022

Rhinella unapensis was first identified on a campus of the National University of the Peruvian Amazon

Rhinella unapensis was first identified on a campus of the National University of the Peruvian Amazon

Rojas et al. © Magnolia Press

“I still find it incredible that in the Amazon one can literally step out from one’s house and discover a new species,” says Rommel Rojas Zamora at the National University of the Peruvian Amazon (UNAP) in Iquitos, Peru. For the second time in his life, he has identified a new-to-science species of toad on his university campus.

“One day, when I went to the new UNAP campus at Zungarococha (near Iquitos), I decided to look into the forest next to the future science building,” says Rojas Zamora. There he noticed toads of the Rhinella genus moving through leaf litter. “When I picked up the individuals, I realised they have a differently shaped head and body than other Rhinella that I examined before. This gave me clues they could be new species.”

He and his colleagues then analysed the anatomy and DNA of this toad and another, which was found in upland forests in the Iquitos region, and determined that they were both new species, distinct from other known Rhinella toads. The toad first identified on the UNAP campus has now been named Rhinella unapensis, and the other species Rhinella angeli. Both are leaf litter toads, camouflaged for life among the decomposing leaf material of the Amazon floor.

Rhinella angeli was found in upland forests in the Iquitos region

Rhinella angeli was found in upland forests in the Iquitos region

Rojas et al. © Magnolia Press

Rojas Zamora made a similar discovery during his PhD studies, identifying the toad species Amazophrynella manaos on the campus of the Federal University of Amazonas in Manaus, Brazil. “The university campus is in the middle of a bustling city of more than 2 million people,” he says.

It is likely that other species of Rhinella toads are yet to be formally identified, and the Iquitos region is already known to have a high diversity of amphibians. “Due to its location in the Peruvian Amazon, Iquitos has green landscape with a vast variety of life,” says Rojas Zamora. “There is a vast diversity of species in the vicinity of the city.”

Rojas Zamora and his colleagues say that the area’s remarkable amphibian diversity is threatened by heavy water poisoning, environmental pollution and forest and soil removal for illegal gold mining.

Journal reference: Zootaxa, DOI: 10.11646/zootaxa.5150.4.2

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