New Frog Species Found In Southern New Jersey

A new frog species of the leopard frog has been found in Southern New Jersey. The Inquisitr previously reported about the new frog species when it was found in Staten Island back in 2009 by a doctoral student. Since then, researchers have been tracking the new frog species to discover other habitats.

Jeremy A. Feinberg, the doctoral student from Rutgers University who was observing the mating call of the southern leopard frog, came across the new frog species when he heard its distinctive groan and cough-like sound. This frog's sounds are not typical to other frogs. Since 2009, Feinberg has performed multiple field and laboratory studies to determine if the new frog was indeed a new species. Genetic testing confirmed that it was a new kind of leopard frog. It has since been named The Atlantic Coast leopard frog.

Brian Zarate, a DEP zoologist, participated in the research. During this time, the new frog has been found in marshlands along the Delaware River and Delaware Bay, Cape May Point State Park, on the state's Atlantic coastline, the Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge in Morris County, the Meadowlands and on Staten Island. Southern New Jersey has now been added to the list.

"This discovery teaches us not to give up on certain habitats that people might dismiss," said Zarate.

The Division of Fish and Wildlife contributed to the research conducted by Rutgers University. With federal and state wildlife grant money, the Endangered and Non-Game Species Program is helping to continue defining the new frog's habitat range.

David Jenkins, chief of the program, stated that the new leopard frog's discovery in New Jersey's swamps and marshes, which are so close to urban areas with heavy human populations, shows that swamps and marshes "...still have tremendous value for our native wildlife, and we shouldn't discount their value."

Since its discovery, scientists have discovered more than a dozen varieties of the leopard frog. They exist anywhere from Canada to Central America, according to current data. They are easily identified by dark spots on a brownish or greenish skin background. As amphibians, they are typically found near grassy areas by small bodies of water, such as ponds or pools.

Feinberg's original findings were published in the journal for Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution. Feinberg also noted that "even if we went back 400 to 500 years, it (the new frog) probably would have been considered a rare animal."

A team of biologists and volunteers are set to search through the wetlands in the upcoming spring.

"There's still a lot we don't know and this discovery highlights the value of protecting our natural resources," said Zarate.

As of right now, the research data shows that the new frog is not the northern leopard frog or the southern leopard frog. It also does not croak, which makes it a rare frog. As further funding supports research and investigation of the new frog species, the Atlantic Coast leopard frog will become familiar to locals and better protected by environmental and conservation efforts.

[Photo courtesy of New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection]