Finding a frog’s voice in the name of conservation
Not all frogs go ribbit (or even ladedadeda). In fact, each frog species has a call that is unique to its own species, and knowing the differences between frogs’ calls is important for frogs and scientists alike. For the first time, we describe the call of a poorly-known Horned Frog from northern Vietnam- an important step in understanding this species and other Horned Frogs in the region.
While frogs can call for all sorts of reasons, mostly it’s males trying to attract females, and female frogs are tuned into the species-specific sound of a prospective mate. Because of the uniqueness of each species’ serenade, scientists can use different calls to tell closely related species apart, and sometimes even rely on acoustic comparisons when describing species as new to science.
But we don’t even know how some frog species sound, which makes them impossible to include in comparisons when describing a potentially new species. Such was the case for the Jingdong Horned Frog (Megophrys jingdongensis) of China and Vietnam, a proud-looking frog with a rather severe expression, and which also happens to have bizarrely funnel-mouthed tadpoles. No one had ever described the properties of this frog’s call – a bit of a problem since many similar species are still being discovered and need describing as new.
During fieldwork high up in the mountains of Lao Cai and Lai Chau Provinces, northern Vietnam, we encountered the Jingdong Horned Frog several times, including in an area where the species had never been recorded. On one occasion we were lucky enough to hear a male calling, so we whipped out our sound recording gear and took full advantage of the situation.
Male advertisement call of the Jingdong Horned Toad (Megophrys jingdongensis), Vietnam.
We have just published the first scientific description of the call of the Jingdong Horned Frog. This contributes to the body of knowledge of the bioacoustics and evolution of this group of frog, which facilitates new species descriptions. Now we know the call of the species, it also helps us detect it in the wild, allowing a greater understanding of these fascinating species and their conservation needs.
Timothy Cutajar, Research Assistant, Herpetology, Australian Museum Research Institute
Cutajar, T.P., Rowley, J.J.L., Nguyen, L.T., Nguyen, C.T., Portway, C., Harding, L., Luong, H.V. and Tapley, B. (2020) The advertisement call of Megophrys jingdongensis Fei and Ye, 1983 and a new record from Lai Chau Province, Northeast Vietnam. Herpetology Notes. 13: 139-143.
This expedition was part of an Ocean Park Conservation Foundation funded project to understand and protect the amphibians of the Hoang Lien Range. The project is a collaboration with the Zoological Society of London, Paignton Zoo, the Asian Turtle Program, Indo Myanmar Conservation and the Center for Rescue and Conservation of Organism (Hoang Lien National Park). Thank you to all who made this work possible.