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Hyloscirtus tolkieni, A New Stream Frog Species Named After J.R.R. Tolkien

The Río Negro Stream frog lives in the clean streams of the Río Negro-Sopladora National Park.

A new species of stream frog from the Ecuadorian Andes has been named after J.R.R. Tolkien, the author of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. The fr

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A new species of stream frog from the Ecuadorian Andes has been named after J.R.R. Tolkien, the author of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. The frog, Hyloscirtus tolkieni was discovered and described by researchers Juan C. Sánchez-Nivicela, José M. Falcón-Reibán, and Diego F. Cisneros-Heredia. They are from the Universidad San Francisco de Quito, Quito, Ecuador, Universidad Nacional de Colombia, Bogotá, Colombia, Instituto Nacional de Biodiversidad, Quito, Ecuador and the Universidad Complutense de Madrid, Madrid, Spain.

The Río Negro Stream frog, (Hyloscirtus tolkieni) lives in the clean streams of the Río Negro-Sopladora National Park. This park has been declared a protected area and it consists of thousands of hectares of primary forestlands in the southeastern portion of Ecuador. Their primary habitat is riparian (area between the land and a river or stream) vegetation. Their tadpoles are said to develop and grow within the rocks of the fast moving currents of the streams and rivers in which the edges were deposited.


The single holotype was found on the southeastern slopes of the Cordillera Oriental mountains of the Ecuadorian Andes mountains at an elevation of 3190 m. It was active at night amongst tree branches and about 5 meters above the ground and 8 meters from the nearest stream.

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“For weeks, we explored different areas of the Río Negro-Sopladora National Park, walking from paramo grasslands at 3,100 meters elevation to forests at 1,000 m. We found a single individual of this new species of frog, which we found impressive due to its colouration and large size,” Juan Carlos Sánchez Nivicela, associate researcher at the Museum of Zoology of the Universidad San Francisco de Quito USFQ said in a statement released to the media. Sánchez Nivicela is from the the National Institute of Biodiversity and is also a co-author of the study on the new frog species.


Hyloscirtus tolkieni stream frog

Holotype of Hyloscirtus tolkieni sp. nov. (SVL = 64.9 mm) in life: a fronto-lateral view b lateral view of head c frontal view d dorso-lateral view. Photographs by Juan C. Sánchez-Nivicela.

The Río Negro Stream frog measures 65mm in length and has a grayish green back with yellow spots and black specks, the press release notes. Its irises are pink and black and is yellow with black spots on its throat, belly and flanks, and on the undersides of its legs. Its fingers and toes have black bars and spots with stripes.

Only one frog from a single locality was found and it was used to conduct the study of the amphibian. The next step for the authors are to establish an assessment of its conservation status and risk of extinction. This will include research and monitoring actions that will enable scientists to study the life history of this frog, its ecology, and population size and dynamics. The researchers also suggest exploring other sites for other populations to determine whether there are any threats to the frog, such as invasive species, mining, emerging diseases and climate change.

Stream Frog Genus Hyloscirtus

The genus in which the Río Negro Stream frog belongs includes 39 known species of stream breeding treefrogs. These frogs are found from Costa Rica to Bolivia and are generally large in size at around 60mm.


“In a stream in the forest there lived a Hyloscirtus. Not a nasty, dirty stream, with spoor of contamination and a muddy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy stream with nothing in it to perch on or to eat: it was a Hyloscirtus-stream, and that means environmental quality.”

(adapted from the opening of “The Hobbit” by J. R. R. Tolkien)

The complete paper, “A new stream treefrog of the genus Hyloscirtus (Amphibia, Hylidae) from the Río Negro-Sopladora National Park, Ecuador” can be read on the ZooKeys website.