A small frog with bright orange eyes has just been discovered from the forested mountains of Vietnam

A new species of frog, the Orange-eyed Litter Toad (Leptolalax pyrrhops) has just been discovered. Small and brown with black spots and bright fiery eyes, this tiny forest-dependent species is already likely to be under great threat from habitat loss.

In recent years, I’ve become slightly obsessed with small brown frogs that live in the leaf-litter on the forest floor of Southeast Asia (Leptolalax species). In part, perhaps because they are the little frogs that often don’t get paid much attention, but mostly because they are likely in a lot of trouble from habitat loss.

Frogs in the genus are known as “Litter Frogs”, “Leaf-litter Frogs”, or “Litter Toads”- not incredibly endearing names, but quite accurate, as they depend on thick layers of leaf-litter on the forest floor in which to live. Males call quietly from in and around rocky streams in the forest at night, and sound remarkably like crickets. It’s really easy to just keep on walking and assume they’re an insect, even when you’re a biologist specifically looking for frogs. It’s perhaps no surprise then that they’re relatively poorly known. It’s also not surprising that they’re under threat from habitat loss, as they rely so heavily on clear streams and relatively dense forests.

The Orange-eyed Litter Toad was discovered by my Russian colleagues in southern Vietnam and I was invited to be a part of the tricky process of determining if it was indeed a new species. It’s not easy to distinguish species in the genus, so the process involved a lot of detective work, comparing the morphology (colour, pattern and body measurements), DNA and male advertisement call of the new species to all known species in the genus. In the end, we determined that it was indeed a new species, and named it in honour of its beautiful bright orange eyes.

The new frog is under threat from habitat loss, as is the case with many species of amphibians (and other biodiversity) in the region. Its discovery is the first step towards what we hope will be the start of its conservation.

Dr Jodi Rowley
Co-odinator, Australian Museum Research Institute

More information:

  • Poyarkov, N. A., Jr., J. J. L. Rowley, S. I. Gogoleva, A. B. Vassilieva, E. A. Galoyan, and N. L. Orlov. (2015). A new species of Leptolalax (Anura: Megophryidae) from the western Langbian Plateau, southern Vietnam. Zootaxa 3931: 221–252.
  • Thank you to Nick Poyarkov and all co-authors for inviting me to be a part of this collaboration, and to Eduard Galoyan for the great images of the new species!