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Nampa University Home To Rare Crowned Treefrog And Undescribed New Species Seized in Hong Kong Shipment

The unidentified species will remain unidentified until the species is found and observed in the wild.

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Northwest Nazarene University in Nampa, Idaho is now home to what is being described as two of the rarest treefrogs in the world.

The amphibians, a crowned treefrog (Anotheca spinosa) and an unidentified, potentially new species, were confiscated in Hong Kong from a cargo shipment that came from Mexico. The authorities weren’t sure of the species, and rather than destroy the animals, which is protocol, they were kept alive.


The university’s biology department chairman, John Cossel, learned about the frogs on a message board dedicated to herpetologists. Save the Frogs, a nonprofit dedicated to education and saving frogs around the world, posted a message looking for an institution that could keep the frogs and use them for educational and research purposes.

Cossel, who has worked extensively in the herpetology field as well as field work in Costa Rica, and the fact that the university already houses Neotropical amphibians, was approved to care for the amphibians.


The story gets even more interesting when the animals were shipped to the university. Cossel and his assistant, junior Austin Reich, determined that the Shaman fringe-limbed treefrog (Ecnomiohyla sukia) that they thought they were receiving was in fact not the species.


“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,” Cossel told Northwest Nazarene University News. “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!”

The unidentified species will remain unnamed until the species is found and observed in the wild.

Both species in the shipment have since had tadpoles that are now froglets, and the university is the only place in the world to see them, Cossel said.

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


 “It’s a real blessing to have such an opportunity land here at NNU," Cossel told Northwest Nazarene University News. "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.”