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Jan 20, 2014 08:44 AM EST

Biologists Discover New Toad Species in Peruvian Yungas

Rhinella yunga
(Photo : PR) Rhinella yunga

Biologists from Czech Republic, the United States and Peru have discovered a new species of toad that lives beneath the dead leaves in the Peruvian Yungas.

'Rhinella yunga,' the toad is named after its habitat in the Peruvian Yungas. The word is used by the locals to describe an ecoregion of montane rainforests. In English it means 'warm valley.' The species was discovered during herpetological surveys conducted in the Yanachaga-Chemillen National Park and the Pui Pui Protected Forests in Central Peru.

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The newly found toad species belongs to Bufonidae, a big toad family of more than 30 genera and some 500 species. These toads, found in almost all the continents except Australia and Antarctica, have a typical warty, strong body, and two big toxic parotoid glands on the back of their heads. When the toads are stressed out, they emit poison as a defensive mechanism. Some toads, like the Rhinella marina, are more poisonous than others. The cane toad has become one of 100 worst invasive species in the world.       

Male toads of this family can transform themselves into females. They have a unique organ that has testes. If the testes are removed, the organ becomes an active ovary.

The body color of Rhinella yunga resembles dead foliage in the forest floor. The toad's bony protrusions and expanded cranial crests helps the creature appear like dead leaves, thereby securing its camouflage. Rhinela yunga is different from all related species because of the absence of a tympanic membrane, a round membranous part of hearing organ (like an eardrum), usually visible on both sides of a toad's head.

Prior to this identification, Rhinella yunga was classified in the Rhinella margaritifera group that comprises of dead-leaf patterned toads. Jiří Moravec, the lead author, believes that the group consists of several undescribed species. 

"It appears that large number of still unnamed cryptic species remains hidden under some nominal species of the Rhinella margaritifera species group", Dr Jiří Moravec, National Museum Prague, Czech Republic, said in a press release.

The finding has been published in the journal Zookeys.

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