Conserve Wildlife Blog

Jersey’s Newest Frog: The “Chuckling” Atlantic Coast Leopard Frog

March 5th, 2015

“Chucks” and Occasional Groans of New Species Caught on Video by Former CWF Biologist

Conserve Wildlife Foundation is excited to celebrate Amphibian Awareness Month during March 2015! Follow us on social media and be sure to check your email (sign up for our list) for weekly stories on the amphibians of the Garden State and our work to protect them. 

By: Lindsay McNamara, Communications Coordinator

Photo: New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife

Photo: New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife

Remember back in late October of 2014 when word quickly spread about a new frog species in New Jersey? The Atlantic Coast leopard frog is mint-gray to light olive green with medium to dark spots. The frog has been found along the Delaware River and Bayshore, along Atlantic Ocean coastline, in the Meadowlands and on Staten Island.

 

Did you know this Jersey frog groans and makes cough-like sounds or “chucks” rather than typical croaking sounds? Listen closely while you watch the video, the sounds originally caught on film by former Conserve Wildlife Foundation biologist Brian Zarate, below to hear the Atlantic Coast leopard frog’s distinctive call:

 

 

Although other leopard frog species, like the southern leopard frog and northern leopard frog, have been recognized and found in New Jersey’s wetlands for some time, researchers only recently gained the ability to use technology such as DNA and digital bioacoustic analysis to present thorough evidence that the Atlantic Coast leopard frog was a unique species.

 

In March 2003, CWF Biologist Brian Zarate and other scientists volunteered to survey salamanders at the Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge in Morris County, New Jersey. As the biologists gathered in the parking lot, they heard an unfamiliar sounding frog. The group captured the frog and took photos, reasoning that it wasn’t the common southern leopard frog, and that might be a northern leopard frog released into the wild.

 

Zarate, now a zoologist with the state’s Division of Fish and Wildlife, moved on to other projects, but in 2007 he checked in on the strange frogs. He heard them near the same Great Swamp parking lot. He posted a video of the frog on YouTube.

 

Four years later, the group returned to Great Swamp, and found the strange frog there and in several other places too. Through the partnership of Zarate, Jeremy Feinberg, a Rutgers doctoral candidate, and Eric Kiviat, a collaborator with Hudsonia Ltd., and the implementation of new technology, it was proven that the strange frog was indeed a different species of leopard frog, the Atlantic Coast leopard frog.

 

Starting this spring, Endangered & Nongame Species Program biologists, including Zarate, will begin a two-year project mapping the potential range of the Atlantic Coast leopard frog. Biologists and volunteers alike will comb New Jersey’s wetlands in search of evidence of the frog and collect data on its habitat preferences.

 

Looking to report a possible sighting of an Atlantic Coast Leopard Frog? Contact Brian Zarate at brian.zarate@dep.state.nj.us.

 

Learn more:

 

Lindsay McNamara is the Communications Coordinator for Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey.

 

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