Brian Kubicki made the discovery of a lifetime this past February when he discovered the first new native frog species since 1973. Kubicki travelled deep into the Talamanca mountains where he found the tiny, semi-translucent frog lurking, despite more than a century of field work in the area.
“Costa Rica is a very well-studied area by herpetologists so this discovery was surprising,” Kubicki said. “We just needed some fieldwork in these areas that were poorly explored.”
Hyalinobatrachium dianae, named after his mother Diana, made its world debut in February in the taxonomy journal Zootaxa.
The frogs lack pigment in their skin and can only be found in parts of Central and South America. Some glass frogs, including H. dianae, are so see through that their organs are visible from their underside, hence the name.
Scientists are unsure as to why the frogs have such a see-through appearance, but a leading theory is that their translucence aids in camouflage. Costa Rica is home to 14 of the 149 species of glass frogs.
Kubicki’s team found six of the new frogs in higher elevations in the western provinces of Limón and Heredia. They are tiny, averaging just under an inch in length. They are characterized by unusually long and thin feet and bright white and black eyes.
They also have a very strange call which distinguishes it as a separate species.
“It’s advertisement call is quite unique,” Kubicki said. “It’s different than any other species that has been discovered.”
The unique call is used by male frogs to attract females for mating. Rather than using calls similar to other glass frogs, H. dianae’s call is a long metallic whistle with rapid fluctuations.
The call is similar to an insect’s call, which may assisted the frog in masking itself from field herpetologists for so long. The scientists also found genetic differences in H. dianae compared to other glass frogs.
The discovery marks the second time this year Kubicki has made a notable discovery in Costa Rica. He and fellow scientist Stanley Salazar discovered the first three Costa Rican specimens of the fringe-limbed treefrog, Ecnomiohyla bailarina.
This species was discovered in Panama in 2014. The specimens discovered by Kubicki and Salazar in Costa Rica were the first E. bailarina frogs seen outside of Panama.