Science Diary: Frogs – New Discoveries

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“Eezhee zhee zhee zhee… it’s actually faster than that.”

That’s Arthur White, an Australian frog biologist, imitating a species that he discovered. Welcome to Pulse of the Planet’s Science Diaries, a glimpse of the world of science from the inside. This month a look back and an update on some of our favorite stories.

“I do a lot of field work and often I come across animals that I’m not too sure of what they are. So I’ll pull out my field guide and flick through it and look at all the pictures to try and work out what species it is, and sometimes it’s just simply not there. In other words, it’s a species that hasn’t been previously picked up by science, and therefore it hasn’t been given a name, it hasn’t been described. Usually when that happens I have to bring the animal back and lodge it in one of the institutions, be it a museum or one of the teaching universities, with the relevant expert who would then formally examine the specimen, try and work out what identifying characteristics it has, how it’s different from other species. That species, I ended up describing it myself, and I called it Littlejohn’s Tree Frog.”

Arthur White discovered the Littlejohn’s Tree Frog in a forest near Sydney, Australia.

ambience: Littlejohn’s tree frog

“And this is really quite surprising because this is the most populated part of Australia, so you don’t normally expect to find new species here. It was either bad luck that no one had come across it before, or it may also be that a lot of people are fair weather animal watchers, and some of these animals really only come out under fairly diabolical conditions when the rain is belting down and the wind is blowing, and unfortunately that’s when this species seems to be most active.”

We checked in with Arthur White recently, and he had some encouraging news to report. Not only have rapidly declining frog populations stabilized since we ran this story, but scientists have discovered five entirely new species of Australian frogs.

Pulse of the Planet’s Science Diaries are made possible by the National Science Foundation. I’m Jim Metzner.

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Science Diary: Frogs - New Discoveries

Undiscovered species may be living in a neighborhood near you. But when and where to look for them?
Air Date:03/01/2012
Scientist:
Transcript:


music

“Eezhee zhee zhee zhee... it's actually faster than that.”

That’s Arthur White, an Australian frog biologist, imitating a species that he discovered. Welcome to Pulse of the Planet’s Science Diaries, a glimpse of the world of science from the inside. This month a look back and an update on some of our favorite stories.

“I do a lot of field work and often I come across animals that I'm not too sure of what they are. So I'll pull out my field guide and flick through it and look at all the pictures to try and work out what species it is, and sometimes it's just simply not there. In other words, it's a species that hasn't been previously picked up by science, and therefore it hasn't been given a name, it hasn't been described. Usually when that happens I have to bring the animal back and lodge it in one of the institutions, be it a museum or one of the teaching universities, with the relevant expert who would then formally examine the specimen, try and work out what identifying characteristics it has, how it's different from other species. That species, I ended up describing it myself, and I called it Littlejohn's Tree Frog.”

Arthur White discovered the Littlejohn’s Tree Frog in a forest near Sydney, Australia.

ambience: Littlejohn’s tree frog

“And this is really quite surprising because this is the most populated part of Australia, so you don't normally expect to find new species here. It was either bad luck that no one had come across it before, or it may also be that a lot of people are fair weather animal watchers, and some of these animals really only come out under fairly diabolical conditions when the rain is belting down and the wind is blowing, and unfortunately that's when this species seems to be most active.”

We checked in with Arthur White recently, and he had some encouraging news to report. Not only have rapidly declining frog populations stabilized since we ran this story, but scientists have discovered five entirely new species of Australian frogs.

Pulse of the Planet’s Science Diaries are made possible by the National Science Foundation. I’m Jim Metzner.

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