Friday, 27 December 2013

A new species of Flying Frog from the lowland forests of southern Vietnam.

Flying Frogs of the genus Racophorus are found from Madagascar and Africa across India to Southeast Asia and Japan. They have long, strong toes connected by thick webbing, hich they spread out while dropping from trees, allowing them to glide for considerable distances (they are not actually capable of true flight). They lay their eggs in foam nests in the treetops, the tadpoles dropping out when they hatch, and falling into water beneath.

In a paper published in the Journal of Herpetology in December 2012, Jodi Rowley of the Australian Museum, Dao Thi Anh Tran of the Faculty of Biology at the University of Science–Ho Chi Minh City and the Zoologisches Forschungsmuseum Alexander Koenig and Huy Duc Hoang and Duong Thi Thuy Le, also of the Faculty of Biology at the University of Science–Ho Chi Minh City, describe a new species of Flying Frog from the lowland forests of southern Vietnam.

The new species is named Rhacophorus helenae, in honour of Mrs Helen Rowley. It is a large species of Flying Frog, adult males being 66.6–69.5 mm in length and females 82.6–88.9 mm, and green in colour, with yellow markings on the flanks and underside and a large black mark behind the jaw. The species was found in the Nui Ong Nature Reserve in Binh Thuan Province and Tan Phu Forest in Dong Nai Province. The presence of Flying Frogs in these areas was previously known, though the populations were considered to belong to Rhacophorus reinwardtii, a much smaller species from Java; the name having previously been applied to Flying Frogs from Indonesia to China, which are now considered to be separate species

Rhacophorus reinwardtii, adult female. Rowley et al. (2012).

The lowland forests of Vietnam are a particularly threatened habitat (as are most tropical lowland forests) subject to extreme fragmentation. Rhacophorus helenae is only known from two small forest fragments, and while it is likely that it is found in other locations, the species is likely to now be extrememely limited in range and broken into a number of small populations. For this reason Rowley et al. consider the species to be threatened under the terms of the International Union for Conservation of Nature's Red List of Threatened Species.


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