When we think of a frog, it is usually one that hops or jumps a long ways. A smooth-skinned amphibian, it is usually found near water. But an international team of scientists near Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam has recently discovered a new flying frog.
Discovered by Dr. Jodi Rowley, an amphibian biologist of the Australian Museum in Sydney and lead author of a paper reporting the discovery in the Journal of Herpetology, the flying frog was located in the Lowland Forests of Vietnam in 2009, sitting on a log.
According to MSNBC, it was not identified until quite recently. It was found in the area's remaining two patches of trees.
“It was incredibly rare and very exciting to find a new species of frog less than 100km from one of the largest cities in South East Asia,” she said in the Sci-News article.“I certainly didn’t expect to find a new species of frog sitting on a fallen tree in lowland forest criss-crossed by a network of paths made by people and water buffalo, and completely surrounded by a sea of rice-paddies.”
Excited with her new discovery, Dr. Rowley named the frog after her mother, Helen Rowley, who had supported her only daughter as the biologist traversed through Southeast Asian forests in search of frogs. “My mother was recently diagnosed with ovarian cancer and I thought it was about time that I showed her how much I appreciate everything she’s done for me and everything that she’s put up with over the years,” she said.
The large 3.5-inch-long frog belongs to the species, Rhacophorus helenae. A bright green color with a white belly, the frog has webbed hands and feet that allow it to parachute from tree to tree. Shocked at such an easy find, Dr. Rowley said, “To discover a previously unknown species of frog, I typically have to climb rugged mountains, scale waterfalls and push my way through dense and prickly rainforest vegetation.”
This find of the new frog species is important for numerous reasons. The lowland forests where Dr. Rowley found Helen's Tree Frog is considered the most threatened habitats in the world. Another species in the area, the Javan Rhino, was confirmed extinct in Vietnam in 2011. Also, the flying flog species is at high risk because the area is an ongoing habitat loss and degradation.