Amphibians, she said, are great indicators of problems in our environment--problems that could potentially impact our health.
"They are a good model to examine environmental threats or degradation because part of their life history is spent in the water and part on land," Rissler said. "They're subject to all the problems that happen to these environments."
The findings show that even in densely-populated, well-studied areas, there are still new discoveries to be made, said Shaffer. And that the newly identified frogs appear to have a startlingly limited range.
"One of the real mantras of conservation biology is that you cannot protect what you don't recognize," Shaffer said. "If you don't know that two species are different, you can't know whether either needs protection."
The newly identified frogs have so far been found in scattered populations in northern New Jersey, southeastern mainland New York and on Staten Island.
Although they may extend into parts of Connecticut and northeastern Pennsylvania, evidence suggests they were once common on Long Island and other nearby regions.
They went extinct there in just the last few decades. "This raises conservation concerns that must be addressed," said ecologist Joanna Burger of Rutgers University.
"These frogs were probably once more widely distributed," Rissler said. "They are still able to hang on. They're still here, and that's amazing."
Until scientists settle on a name for the frog, they refer to it as "Rana sp. nov.," meaning "new frog species."
|Contact: Cheryl Dybas|
National Science Foundation