ARUSHA, TANZANIA: A new and unique species of frog has been discovered in eastern Tanzania, a development which is expected to boost tourism potential for amphibian lovers and researchers in the east African nation.
Charles Meshark, Executive Director for Tanzania Forest Conservation Group (TFCG) said on Tuesday that the new species has been discovered in Ruvu South Forest Reserve, located some 45 kilometers from the country's commercial capital, Dar es Salaam.
Meshark said that in 2001 a group of scientists working for the non-governmental organization Frontier-Tanzania collected a strange looking reed frog from Ruvu South Forest. Sixteen years later, a genetic and morphological analysis by British scientists, Chris Barratt and Simon Loader, revealed that the frog is new to science.
The frog has been named Hyperolius ruvuensis or the Ruvu spiny reed frog. The frog was found on reeds and bushes in a swampy area of open grassland within the reserve. The frog has not been seen since 2001, despite a rapid survey in 2015.
"The discovery of this new frog species highlights the importance of Ruvu South Forest Reserve for tourism particularly for amphibian lovers and researchers," Meshark said, calling the Tanzania Forest Services Agency (TFS) to chip in and protect the natural forest and wetlands in the reserve.
According to him, more than 40 percent of the forest in Ruvu South Forest Reserve was lost between 2000 and 2011. Fire and illegal charcoal production continue to cause damage to the natural habitat of the new species.
The recently described frog offers an interesting account of the evolutionary history of a group of reed frogs in this region with its close links to forest species of the Eastern Afromontane mountains.
"The frog we see today in Ruvu South is likely to be a relic of a formerly widespread forest habitat that has, through historical climate change and human impact, become isolated, and alone in the coastal forest of Ruvu," explained scientist Dr Simon Loader, Regional Chair of the IUCN SSC Amphibian Specialist Group.