The Condor Cordillera between Ecuador and Peru is positively luxuriant in life, but due to the inaccessibility of the mountain range and decades of border disputes, it was only in recent years that scientists were able to get there to check everything.
They have made absolutely amazing discoveries – the latest of which is a lovely, yet very strange, tree found on the slopes of a flat topped mountain or mesa at altitudes above 2,000 meters (6,562 feet).
And what magnificent toads they are – of dark tones, speckled like a skin of golden stars to produce camouflage amidst the damp foliage, in some individuals striped like a tiger.
In addition, their front feet have an unusual feature – a thumb-like structure at the base of the thumb, whose function is unknown. It could be used as protection against predators, or perhaps used as a weapon in fighting between males.
They were closely examined by researchers led by Santiago R. Ron of the Catholic University of Ecuador who conducted morphological observations and genetic tests to determine that the frog was in fact a new species.
They named Hyloscirtus hillisi – the Hillisi torrent frog – to honor David Hillis, who discovered three species in the Hyloscirtus Ecuador in the 1980s.
Reaching the frogs was not an easy walk.
"To get to the table, we walked for two days on steep terrain, and then, between sweat and exhaustion, we arrived at the table where we found a dwarf forest," said biologist Alex Achig of the Central University of Ecuador, who participated in the study. trip, but did not participate in the role.
"The rivers had black water, and the frogs were seated along them, on branches of brown shrubs, similar in color to the frogs themselves. Frogs were hard to find because they mingled with the bottom."
However, although the team, which contains experienced herpetologists, has researched thoroughly, they could only find two habitats where toads live – one with tadpoles and juveniles and one with a small number of adults and a subadult.
Because of the small number of frogs that could be discovered, and because mining in the region has already affected amphibian populations, researchers believe that the newly discovered climbing frog Hillisi should enter the annals as Critically Endangered.
The frog was described in the journal ZooKeys.