Two New Species of Horned Frogs are Discovered in Sumatra, Indonesia

Herpetology researcher from Indonesian National Research and Innovation Agency and his team discovered two new species of Horned Frogs.

Three years in a row, Amir Hamidy, Herpetology Researcher, a zoologist that studies amphibians, at the National Research and Innovation Agency (BRIN) and his team managed to discover new species of frogs from the Megophrys genus.

In 2021, Amir and his team have succeeded in identifying two new types of frogs from Sumatra, Indonesia, namely the South Sumatran horned frog (Megophrys selatanensis) and Aceh's horned frog (Megophrys acehensis).

Previously in 2019, the Bornean Horned Frog (Megophrys kalimantanensis) was discovered by Amir and his team. Additionally, in 2018, the team also discovered Sharp horned frog (Megophrys lancip).

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The South Sumatran Horned-frog, Megophrys selatanensis. (Photo: BRIN/ E.N. Smith)
The South Sumatran Horned-frog, Megophrys selatanensis. (Photo: BRIN/E.N. Smith)

Amir and his collaborators, Kanto Nishikawa from Kyoto University and Eric N. Smith from the University of Texas at Arlington, explained that the two new species of Megophrys from Sumatra were identified based on evaluation of their taxonomic status using molecular and morphological data. 

Misbahul Munir, who is the first author of this discovery, explained that the horned frogs, which are often known by the scientific name of the genus Megophrys, have a unique characteristic. The tip of the snout and the eyelids are modified into sharp protrusions which look like horns. 

“Tadpoles from the Megophrys genus also have a unique character where their mouths are modified into a widening funnel shape," said Misbahul, quoted from BRIN press release.

"Currently, 13 species of Megophrys are known to exist in Southeast Asia, including Thailand, Peninsular Malaysia, Sumatra, Java, Kalimantan, and the Philippines. Kalimantan holds the highest record – because six of these species are found on this island,” added Misbahul.

Amir revealed that frogs from the Megophrys genus have a faint morphological diversity. 

“While conducting a herpetofauna (amphibians) survey throughout the Bukit Barisan Mountains range in Sumatra, we found a population of southern Sumatran Megophrys with smooth dorsal skin that is morphologically similar to M. montana from Java and a population resembling the dorsal skin of M. parallela from northern Sumatra. We investigated the taxonomic status of these two new populations and estimated their phylogenetic relationship."

The Aceh Horned-frog, Megophrys acehensis. (Photo: BRIN/ E.N. Smith)
The Aceh Horned-frog, Megophrys acehensis. (Photo: BRIN/E.N. Smith)

For the etymology, the selatanensis name comes from the word south in Indonesian language, as a word that indicates the location of the distribution of the frog, in the southern region of Sumatra. The Latin suffix –ensis basically means the place of origin. Meanwhile, the suggested common name is the South Sumatran Horned Frog.

Likewise, the origin of the word acehensis, which means it comes from the province of Aceh in northern Sumatra. The suggestion for the common name is Aceh horned frog.

The holotype (single physical sample) of Megophrys selatanhensis was taken from the collection of specimens from the Zoologicum Bogoriense Museum found during a field expedition in 2013 and Megophrys acehensis found in 2015.

Based on the results of this study, each species of Megophrys in Sumatra may have a limited distribution. Of the five species found in Sumatra, four of them are endemic species. 

In addition to being endemic, the Megophrys genus is found in highland and lowland forests. Habitat change from forest to agricultural land and oil palm plantations is the biggest threat to the sustainability of this species.