Possible Discovery of a New Species of Frog in Southeastern Virginia

While the discovery of a new species of frog in the Amazon and other tropical locations is always exciting, it’s really not all that surprising. But to find a new species of frog, or any vertebrate, in a region as thoroughly-investigated as the eastern United States is nothing less than amazing. But that’s exactly what was announced in 2012 by a collaboration of researchers led by a doctoral student from Rutgers University. What makes it even more astounding is that the discovery was made in the marshes surrounding Staten Island in New York City! The newly discovered frog was named the Atlantic Coast Leopard Frog (Lithobates kauffeldi). But the story doesn’t stop here.

In 2011, VDGIF Herpetologist J.D. Kleopfer heard an unusual chorus on the Nottoway River south of Franklin. At first it was thought to have been a large flock of grackles or starlings, but the steady nature of the chorus made him soon realize it was a chorus of frogs. The “quack-like” chorus sounded like wood frogs, but wood frogs primarily occur in the Mountain region of the Commonwealth with a few scattered records in the northern Piedmont.

Feeling like the guy who saw a UFO, he was apprehensive to claim that he had heard wood frogs in the lower Coastal Plain. After discussing his observation with reputable colleagues, it was dismissed as a variation of the Southern Leopard Frog (Lithobates sphenocephalus) and nothing more was pursued. The following year, while attending a Northeast Partners in Amphibian and Reptile Conservation conference, he discussed his observation with a colleague that had assisted in the discovery of the new species. Once J.D. described the “quack-like” chorus, he quickly replied “That’s the frog!”. Although photo documentation and auditory recordings have been confirmed, VDGIF is waiting on the results of genetic analysis for confirmation. Once genetic confirmation is received, this species will be officially added to the list of Virginia’s fauna.

The rounder snout and duller pattern are believed to be some of the characteristics defining the Atlantic Coast Leopard Frog from the Southern Leopard Frog.

  • June 26, 2015