Monday, January 15, 2018

[Herpetology • 2018] Rana lenca • An Integrative Assessment of the Taxonomic Status of Putative Hybrid Leopard Frogs (Anura: Ranidae) from the Chortís Highlands of Central America, with Description of A New Species


Rana lenca
 Luque-Montes, Austin, Weinfurther, Wilson, Hofmann & Townsend, 2018


Integrative taxonomy seeks to approach the complex topic of species diagnosis using independent, complementary lines of evidence. Despite their ubiquity throughout North and Central America, taxonomy of the American leopard frogs (Anura: Ranidae: Rana: subgenus Pantherana) remains largely unresolved, and this is arguably nowhere truer than in the Central American country of Honduras, where there are two nominal species, the taxonomy of which remains unresolved. Leopard frogs from several mountainous areas along the continental divide in Honduras have previously been considered putative hybrids between Rana brownorum and R. cf. forreri, as opposed to two alternate hypotheses: one that they represent a high-altitude eco-morph of a single widespread species that included both lowland forms, or a second that there is an undescribed highland species distinct from either of the recognized lowland forms. We examine this set of hypotheses using three independent lines of evidence. First, we used species distribution modelling to examine potential geographic isolation of the highland form and the two putative parental lowland species, and found strong ecological separation between the highland and lowland forms. Second, mitochondrial and nuclear DNA supports the distinction of the highland form from both putative parental species, with mtDNA data refuting the hypothesis that representatives of either species may represent a matrilineal founder. Morphologically, the highland form is significantly smaller than, and otherwise readily differentiated from, both R. brownorum and R. cf. forreri, as well as all other Rana found in Honduras and adjacent areas. As a result, we formally describe the highland leopard frog as a new species.

Key words: Amphibia, integrative taxonomy, mitochondrial DNA, Pantherana, phylogeny, rhodopsin, species distribution modelling




Rana lenca sp. nov.

Common English name. Lenca Leopard Frog
Common Spanish name. La Rana Lenca

Etymology. The name lenca is given in honour of the indigenous Lenca people, the traditional inhabitants of the mountainous region of south-western Honduras. 

Paratypes of Rana lenca from Reserva Biologica Cerro Uyuca, 1,640 m elevation, Departamento de Francisco Morazan,Honduras:
(1) adult female paratype (UF 166642; 64.3 mm SL); (2) Subadult female paratype (UF 166643) and tadpole (UF 166637).
Photos by Jason M. Butler. 

Unvouchered examples of Rana lenca; (1) adult male from the type locality; (2) adult female from the type locality; (3) adult male from the Reserva Biologica Cerro Uyuca; (4) adult female from the Reserva Biologica Cerro Uyuca. 

Unvouchered examples of Rana lenca;
 (1) adult male from the type locality; (2) adult female from the type locality; (3) adult male from the Reserva Biologica Cerro Uyuca; (4) adult female from the Reserva Biologica Cerro Uyuca; (5) adult male at edge of pond at type locality; (6) adult female floating amongst Pinus oocarpa needles in a spring-fed pool at Reserva Biologica Cerro Uyuca. 

Type locality of Rana lenca; San Pedro La Loma, 2010 m elevation, Depto. Intibuca, Honduras. in January 2008 (top) and during drought conditions in May 2015 (bottom). 


Ileana Luque-Montes, James D. Austin, Kayla D. Weinfurther, Larry David Wilson, Erich P. Hofmann and Josiah H. Townsend. 2018. An Integrative Assessment of the Taxonomic Status of Putative Hybrid Leopard Frogs (Anura: Ranidae) from the Chortís Highlands of Central America, with Description of A New Species.  Systematics and Biodiversity. In Press.   DOI  10.1080/14772000.2017.1415232 

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