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Tiny golden frog species found on an isolated mountain in Ethiopia

Researchers from NYU Abu Dhabi have discovered a new frog species in a remote region of southwestern Ethiopia, where some of the country’s last remaining primary forest is located. The team wanted to explore Bibita Mountain for its isolation and also because it was essentially uncharted territory.

“Untouched, isolated, and unexplored: it had all the elements to spike our interest,” said study co-author Dr. Jacobo Reyes-Velasco, who initiated the research. “We tried to reach Bibita in a previous expedition in 2016 without success. Last summer, we used a different route that brought us to higher elevation.”

The new frog is very small, measuring only between 17 and 20 millimeters. The frog can be distinguished from other Ethiopian puddle frogs by its slender body with long legs, elongated fingers and toes, and a golden yellow color.

“When we looked at the frogs, it was obvious that we had found a new species, they look so different from any Ethiopian species we had ever seen before!” explained study co-author Dr. Sandra Goutte.

Image Courtesy NYU Abu Dhabi researchers S. Goutte and J. Reyes-Velasco.

Back in the lab, the experts tested tissue samples and discovered that the tiny new frog is unrelated to any other frog species in the region.

Study lead author Stéphane Boissinot, who has been studying Ethiopian frogs since 2010, is the NYU Abu Dhabi Program Head of Biology.

“The discovery of such a genetically distinct species in only a couple of days in this mountain is the perfect demonstration of how important it is to assess the biodiversity of this type of places,” said Boissinot. “The Bibita Mountain probably has many more unknown species that await our discovery; it is essential for biologists to discover them in order to protect them and their habitat properly.”

The study is published in the journal ZooKeys.

By Chrissy Sexton, Staff Writer

Image Courtesy NYU Abu Dhabi researchers S. Goutte and J. Reyes-Velasco.

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