Rare frogs cared for at Christian college

October 24, 2017

Two unique frog species, the Crowned Treefrog (Anotheca spinosa) and the Fringe-limbed Treefrog (Ecnomiohyla sp.), have been harbored at Northwest Nazarene University since July 26, giving students invaluable experience researching and caring for these rare amphibians. Chair of NNU’s Department of Biology Dr. John Cossel commented, “It’s a real blessing to have such an opportunity land here at NNU. Very few, if any, zoos or aquariums in the U.S. have living Crowned Treefrogs and probably no other university; and we are most likely the only place in the world that harbors this species of Ecnomiohyla.”

Since the arrival of these amphibians, Dr. Cossel and his students have made exciting discoveries and have had unique experiences. The Crowned Treefrogs laid eggs soon after arriving and the tadpoles are now metamorphosing into froglets. The Fringe-limbed Treefrogs also laid eggs recently—making NNU one of the only institutions in the world to have bred these frogs in captivity. Although originally thought to be the Shaman Fringe-limbed Treefrog (Ecnomiohyla sukia), a species described by Dr. Cossel’s friend and colleague Brian Kubicki, these frogs are an unknown species in the genus Ecnomiohyla.

“Based on my familiarity with Ecnomiohyla species found in Costa Rica, I realized they were not E. sukia. So, we scoured the literature and databases to consider the sound of the mating call, and their physical appearance,” said Cossel. “And, as it turns out, we suspect it is a species undescribed by science! We are now working to record as many details about these frogs as possible. Sadly, describing the new species officially will depend on us being able to find individuals in the wild. But, that’s okay—hopefully, it will mean more field work in the rainforests of Central America!”

Dr. Cossel received the frogs from Kadoorie Farm & Botanic Garden in Hong Kong after they were confiscated from a cargo shipment originating in Mexico. Because of his extensive work in Costa Rica and with Neotropical amphibians already housed at NNU, Cossel’s expertise in herpetology made him the perfect candidate for custody.

The two species will be unveiled at the NNU Department of Biology’s “Creepy Crawlies” open house, an event displaying the university’s numerous species of live amphibians and reptiles including tropical and local species. The event will take place in the Thomas Family Health & Science Building on Friday, November 3 from 4-6 p.m. This event is free and open to the public.

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