This frog has an unusual quality: it is mute. Unlike his conspecifics, he does not croak and does not make any other sounds. In order to recognize conspecifics, it therefore uses an unusual method.
Originally, a team of international scientists wanted to track down an endangered species of tree toad in Tanzania. But instead, the researchers came across a still unknown species of reed frogs. Hyperolius ukaguruensis was named after where it was found, the Ukaguru Mountains. Males of this species have tiny spines on their necks, which is why they are also known as spiny-necked reed frogs.
“It’s a very strange group of frogs,” says Lucinda Lawson, who led the 2019 Tanzania amphibian search. The Ukaguru spiny reed frog is one of the few frogs in the world that doesn’t utter a sound to its peers. “Instead, we suspect that the frogs use the spines like a kind of Braille to recognize each other and distinguish themselves from other frogs,” says Lawson.
There are only a few, small populations of spiny reed frogs, which is why they are considered rare and threatened with extinction. The discovery of this new species is therefore an important asset for conservation. “High biodiversity is important for maintaining healthy ecosystems,” Lawson explains. “If that one species goes extinct, we lose a thread in the ecosystem. If you then pull out more and more threads, the ecosystem becomes unstable,” says the biologist.