Rare frog species so close to populous city

Rare frog species so close to populous city

SYDNEY - Agence France-Presse
Rare frog species so close to populous city

The tree-dwelling flying frog can glide or parachute across the forest canopy. REUTERS photo

An Australian researcher who discovered a new species of flying frog near Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam and named it after her mother said yesterday it was a rare find so close to such a big city. Helen’s Flying Frog was first discovered by Jodi Rowley, an amphibian expert from Sydney’s Australian Museum, in 2009 during a field trip to the forests fringing the city previously known as Saigon.

Rowley initially thought the tree-dwelling flying frog, so named for the huge webbed feet that allow it to glide or parachute across the forest canopy, was a familiar species when she saw it sitting on a log beside a path.

Something different
It was not until a later trip, when she saw a specimen of the original type of frog in another part of Vietnam, that she realized her creature was something quite different. “The new species has a bright white belly and white whites of the eyes, whereas the species that I thought it was -- its closest relative -- has a lemon yellow belly and yellow whites of the eyes,” Rowley said. “There are also differences in the color of the webbing, color of the thighs, and we did look at body type as well so it does seem to be bigger than the other species.”

Molecular analysis confirmed Rowley’s suspicions and she had the honor of naming the new species rhacophorus helenae or Helen’s Flying Frog after her mother. She said the “big, impressive” species, which is 10 centimeters long was a surprising find in the low-lying evergreen forest surrounded by rice paddies on the fringes of Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam’s most populous city.

“What’s rare about this discovery in particular is the fact that I found the lone individual less than 90 kilometers from the middle of Ho Chi Minh City, one of the biggest cities in Southeast Asia,” said Rowley.
Researchers are now working to establish whether Helen’s frog is endangered.