Melbourne: Scientists have discovered a new species of green treefrog in Australia – with distinctive orange hands and feet and iridescent purple inner thighs.
Named Litoria bella, or the Cape York Graceful Treefrog, the striking animal had previously escaped scientific scrutiny because it had been mistaken for a southern relative called the Graceful Treefrog (Litoria gracilenta), which is commonly heard calling after rain in spring and summer.
“By looking at differences in its appearance, as well as its advertisement call and DNA, we now conclude that the Cape York Graceful Treefrog is a distinct species, bringing the number of known frog species in Australia to 239,” said Keith McDonald, from Queensland Museum in Australia. The species was thought to occur all the way from north-eastern New South Wales to northern Cape York Peninsula in Queensland, researchers said.
However, subtle differences in appearance between Cape York frogs and their southern counterparts made researchers suspicious that more than one species was involved.
“By examining and comparing the frog’s colour and body measurements, DNA sequences and advertisement calls, we reveal that the frogs on northern Cape York Peninsula are a distinct species, and name the species the Cape York Graceful Treefrog (Litoria bella),” said McDonald. “We were also surprised to discover that the new species is more closely related to similar frogs in New Guinea than to its southern relative,” McDonald added.
The Cape York Graceful Treefrog is known from between Moa Island in the Torres Strait in the north, to about 20 km south of Coen on the Cape York Peninsula in the south.
The southern-most location of the new species is separated by 220 km from the most northern record of the Graceful Treefrog in the Endeavour Valley near Cooktown. The study was published in the journal Zootaxa.