From the forests of northeastern Cambodia, another frog species new to science is scientifically named!
The Fanged Frogs of Southeast Asia are truly remarkable beasts. Males have a particularly large, muscular head and sport “fangs” (actually projections of their jaw bone) used to battle it out with each other for the best stream territory. Whilst rather fantastic frogs, many species of fanged frogs look very similar to each other; this has resulted in an underestimation of just how many fanged frogs are out there. With forests rapidly disappearing in Southeast Asia, this has serious implications for species such as Fanged Frogs, which are dependent on forested streams.
For a long time, Kuhl’s Fanged Frog (Limnonectes kuhlii) was thought to be very widespread - from the tropical forests of Indonesia to the cool mountains of southern China. In the past decade, genetic evidence has revealed the possibility that there may be at least twenty species ‘hidden’ within seemingly singular frog species.
We took a closer look at the frogs that were previously thought to be Kuhl’s Fanged Frog from the forested streams of Virachey National Park in northeastern Cambodia. We found that these frogs differed from Kuhl’s Fanged Frog, and all related species, in their head shape, body size, aspects of their skin, as well as molecular data. Based on these lines of evidence, we scientifically name the Cambodian Fanged Frog (Limnonectes fastigatus). The Latin word fastigatus, meaning sharp or pointed, refers to the particularly pointy fangs in this species. Some males of the Cambodian Fanged Frog also have some of the most impressive head muscles we’ve ever seen in this group of Fanged Frogs!
The Cambodian Fanged Frog is only known from Virachey National Park in northeastern Cambodia. This park is home to a high diversity of amphibians and is the only place in Cambodia that many of these amphibian species occur. This is the same place that we, together with Cambodian herpetologist Thy Neang, surveyed for amphibians and reptiles in 2007. Since then, our team of collaborators has named four frog species found on that survey, including: the Cambodian Fanged Frog, the Musical Leaf-litter Frog (Leptobrachella melica), the Similar Leaf-litter Frog (Leptobrachella isos) and the Crescent Moon Spadefoot Frog (Leptobrachium lunatum). Further scientific discoveries are likely in the biodiverse and imperiled forests of northeastern Cambodia.
Dr Jodi Rowley, Curator, Amphibian & Reptile Conservation Biology, Australian Museum Research Institute & UNSW Sydney.
Dr Bryan Stuart, North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, USA.
Stuart, B. L., Schoen, S.N., Nelson, E.E.M, Maher, H., Neang, T., Rowley, J.J.L., McLeod, D.S. (2020). A new fanged frog in the Limnonectes kuhlii complex (Anura: Dicroglossidae) from northeastern Cambodia. Zootaxa 4894 (3): 451–473.