Roehampton Zoologist’s research on the ‘Mongrel frog’ reveals new species and its evolutionary history

Dr Simon Loader in the Department of Life Sciences has discovered new frog species from Mozambique and Malawi. This discovery also revealed the evolutionary history of this mysterious amphibian group relative to other species.

Posted: 8 April 2016

image for news story Roehampton Zoologist’s research on the ‘Mongrel frog’ reveals new species and its evolutionary history
Four of the new species of frog discovered in mountains in East Africa. Photos by W Conradie and HM Farooq.

Zoologists in the past have had difficulty classifying the genera Nothophryne, a species of frog that shares physical similarities with many other species, leading to its nickname the ‘mongrel frog’. Using genetic data, Dr Simon Loader and his international research team have for the first time shown the evolutionary relationship of this group relative to other amphibians.

His team collected DNA samples from these frogs in Mozambique and Malawi allowing for a comparison that shows how closely related they are to each other and all other frog species. Furthermore, by analysing the genetic samples of all known populations, the team were also able to identify up to seven distinct frog species. Each species was discovered on separate mountains but most of these remain yet to be fully analysed.

Dr Loader said, “The use of genetic techniques on Nothophryne has never been applied to this group before. This research provided us with a fascinating insight into the morphological, biogeographical and life history evolution of these frogs. We were also able to identify that the new species each lived on small, single isolated mountains”.

Dr Loader’s research also underlined a serious concern for the long-term preservation of the species.  There is an increasing use of slash and burn techniques to create fields for agriculture that are destroying the frog’s unique habitats. Dr Loader and his team are working to raise awareness of this issue to further protect the biodiversity of the areas that these frogs live in.

To read more about Dr Loader’s discovery, his new paper is entitled ‘The phylogenetic position and diversity of the enigmatic mongrel frog Nothophryne Poynton’.

Find out more about how you could study animals on our Zoology courses and Biological Sciences courses in the Life Sciences Department at Roehampton.

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