Mystical Stream Frog Named After JRR Tolkien

  • Scientists have discovered another frog in the world in the forests of Ecuador.
  • The colors and patterns of the stream reminded researchers of fantasy author JRR Tolkien.
  • One researcher told Insider that he could imagine the frog living in the Fangorn forest.

First came the Leonardo DiCaprio snakes. Now come the Tolkien frogs.

A frog fit for a role in one of JRR Tolkien’s fantasy worlds has been discovered in the stunning streams of Río Negro-Sopladora National Park in Ecuador — a country literally on the equator — middle The world.

Because of this, the researchers Juan C. Sánchez-Nivicela, José M. Falcón-Reibán, and Diego F. Cisneros-Heredia named the mystical frog – a green gray and yellow amphibian with brown speckles and big pink eyes – Hyloscirtus tolkieni after the famous author.

“In a stream in the forest lived a Hyloscirtus. Not a bold, dirty stream, spotlessly polluted and smelling of mud, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy stream with nothing to spare or eat: it was like you. Hyloscirtus-stream, and that means the quality of the environment,” the study authors wrote in the opening paragraph of their paper, published in the journal ZooKeys (This paragraph is an adaptation of the famous first lines of “The Hobbit.”)

The frog, found during surveys in 2020, is 2.6 inches long, lives at an altitude of 3190 meters, and is easily distinguished from others. Hyloscirtus species – of which there are 39 – because of its colour.

“It was a big surprise to hit this frog,” Sánchez-Nivicela told Insider in an email interview. “While we were sampling near a bay and making our way through the vegetation, the only specimen so far jumped towards us. The coloration patterns were not like what was seen in other frogs of the same genus – there was we know immediately.”

Because only one Hyloscirtus tolkieni Discovered so far, there is still a lot to learn about how many there are and what regions they live in. The authors noted in their statement that deforestation, unsustainable agricultural practices, and other environmental threats have harmed species in the mountain regions of the Andes. About 57% of the amphibian species in Ecuador are at risk of extinction.

A green and yellow frog with brown spots and brown eyes looks off into the distance as it hangs on a green branch by its feet.

Hyloscirtus tolkieni, named after the fantasy author JRR Tolkein

Juan Carlos Sánchez-Nivicela / Archives of the Museum of Zoology, Universidad San Francisco de Quito

Sánchez-Nivicela told Insider that the mountain forest where the stream frog lives is full of “amazing landscapes” of moss and rich vegetation. The authors of the study noted in a statement that the protected area is how they managed to find a significant number of species since 2020.

“I imagined it as the Fangorn forest, south of the Misty Mountains and this frog lives with the Ents,” said Sánchez-Nivicela.

A dark green forest

Habitat of Hyloscirtus tolkieni (red arrow pointing to collection site); and at the collection site inside the forest (below).

Juan C. Sánchez-Nivicela

Sánchez-Nivicela said the reaction to the new frog was well received by fans, and he personally delivered the news on social media pages and blogs dedicated to the late author and his fantasy world.

He and his colleagues are also fans. Sánchez-Nivicela described himself and his co-workers as “dreamers” whose jobs have taken them to places like the scenic landscapes depicted in books and art.

“Personally, The Lord of the Rings books came into my life at the right time and have been my companion ever since,” said Sánchez-Nivicela. “To think that one can contribute to the solution of the great conflicts in the world without being one of the great characters that everyone hopes for, without coming from a kingdom or a castle, it allows me to dream in that world.”

The burn frog will take its place among other amphibians that may exist in Middle Earth – including a sturdy, wood-loving frog named after Bilbo Baggins who lives on the other side of the Atlantic.

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