Meet the tiny new frog species just discovered from southern China
A new species of frog, the Maoershan Leaf-litter Frog (Leptolalax maoershanensis), has just been discovered from the highest mountain in southern China. Already known for its high biodiversity, Maoershan’s most recently discovered species is a small, brown frog that chirps like a cricket. China’s newest frog species discovery highlights just how many species are likely to remain undiscovered in the forests of the region and reinforces their importance for biodiversity conservation.
Maoershan is the highest mountain in southern China, reaching over 2100 m above sea level. Located in Guangxi Province, the mountain is home to an extraordinarily high level of biodiversity, many of it found nowhere else on earth. Two species of amphibian, a salamander and a frog, are only known from pools near the summit. However, many areas of the mountain remain poorly-surveyed, and the biodiversity of the mountain remains incompletely known.
Recent surveys on Maoershan have revealed another species of amphibian only known from the mountain. The new species of frog, the Maoershan Leaf-litter Frog (Leptolalax maoershanensis), is only 2-3cm in body length, is brown with black spots, and has a bright orange-red upper eye. It is only known from bamboo forest in Maoershan Nature Reserve at about 1550 m above sea. Males of the species were found calling along the stream, perching on rocks and hidden in rocky crevices or under deadwood. Like most species of Leaf-litter frog, they breed in rocky streams in montane forest and have an advertisement call that sounds like the chirp of an insect.
The Maoershan Leaf-litter Frog is the ninth species of Leaf-litter Frog known from China. Three of these species have been discovered in the last three years, and it’s likely that additional species of Leaf-litter Frog remain to be discovered. There are many unsurveyed areas in southern China, especially in remote parts of Yunnan, Guangxi and Guangdong Provinces, and surveys in these areas will likely result in the discovery of additional Leaf-litter Frogs.
The continued discovery of new species from Maoershan suggests that our current understanding of the biodiversity of the mountain is underestimated, and highlights the need for additional surveys. Many species from Maoershan are found nowhere else, and it is important to understand patterns of species diversity and endemism on mountains in this important region so that we can ensure that their unique biodiversity will be maintained for future generations.
Dr Jodi Rowley
Curator, Amphibian & Reptile Conservation Biology, Australian Museum Research Institute & UNSW
Dr Zhi-yong Yuan
College of Forestry, Southwest Forestry University
Yuan, Z., Sun, R., Chen, J., Rowley, J.J.L., Wu, Z., Hou, S., Wang, S., & Che, J. (2017). A new species of the genus Leptolalax (Anura: Megophryidae) from Guangxi, China. Zootaxa, 4300 (4): 551–570.