During a two-week expedition to the Condor Mountains in Ecuador, researchers discovered a new species of treefrog.
It was during a two-week expedition to a little-explored area of the eastern Andes that the researchers came face-to-face with a strange creature. Nestled on the plateau of the Condor Mountains, Hyloscirtus hillisi is a new species of tree frog, rare and with unusual characteristics.
“To reach the plateau, we walked a steep terrain for two days,” says Alex Achig, a member of the team of biologists behind the discovery. “Then, between sweat and exhaustion, we arrived on the plateau where we found a dwarf forest. The frogs were sitting along the black-water rivers, on branches of brown bushes […] The frogs were hard to find because they blended with the decor.”
These amphibians, Hyloscirtus hillisi, have an astonishing structure in the form of a claw at the base of the thumb. Researchers are still unaware of the function of this appendix, but it could serve as a defense weapon against predators, or to compete in competition with other males.
The genetic and morphological analyzes of the animal led to the conclusion that it was a hitherto unknown species. Its name was awarded in honor of Dr. David Hillis, a member of the National Academy of Sciences in the United States, who discovered three species of frogs of the same genus in the 1980s during a trip to Ecuador.
Despite its recent discovery, Hyloscirtus hillisi is already threatened with extinction. Its small distribution area is close to a mining site run by a Chinese company. Habitat destruction in the region has already been the subject of a study published by the NGO Amazon Conservation. It is difficult to say how many unknown species disappear each year in total ignorance.