First Annual Long Island Natural History Conference

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A Frog's Tale: The Story of a Long Island Extinction and Its Unexpected Role in the Discovery of New Species of Leopard Frog (Anura Ranidae) in the Urban Northeast
Jeremy Feinberg
(Session 6, 3:30-4:15)

Herein, we provide an overview of the extinction of leopard frogs from Long Island and the related discovery of a novel, cryptic anuran that unexpectedly occurred as a result of this work. The previously undescribed leopard frog species was recently reported from the greater New York City metropolitan region. This species is morphologically similar and somewhat intermediate to two largely parapatric congeners; the northern leopard frog, R. pipiens, and the southern leopard frog, R. sphenocephala, and was originally identified by ecological and behavioral data, as well as genetic data. Elucidation of a novel, range-limited frog in one of the largest, most well-studied urban corridors in the world is unique in underscoring the potential for unveiling new species in overlooked locales and unexpected in a region rarely noted for amphibian speciation or endemism. This species typically occurs in highly restrictive wetland habitats that have largely been lost or substantially altered over centuries. We provide a brief review of our past and present research, and discuss basic ecology, behavior, and breeding phenology of the species.

Jeremy Feinberg is a doctoral candidate in the graduate program in Ecology and Evolution at Rutgers University and a guest researcher at the Brookhaven National Laboratory. He holds Bachelor's and Master's degrees in biology and has spent his career focusing on wildlife ecology and conservation, specifically among reptiles and amphibians on Long Island and other parts of the New York metropolitan area. Jeremy is particularly interested in identifying and understanding the reasons behind the declines of certain species. His primary PhD work focused on one such example on Long Island where leopard frogs, a once-common species, vanished over the past several decades. Using a "CSI-like" approach, he collected leopard frog eggs from surviving off-island populations and raised the resulting early-stage tadpoles in experimental field enclosures at historic wetlands throughout eastern Long Island. The tadpoles were tracked and monitored for survival and growth and also used as environmental sentinels to help detect the potential threat(s) that may have caused their original disappearance.

During this research, Jeremy was part of a fortunate accident that helped
elucidate a previously undescribed cryptic species of leopard frog in the northeast and mid-Atlantic region. Jeremy's professional experience also includes working for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the University of
Florida, and a major environmental consulting firm.

© 2012 Long Island Nature Organization, Harbor Electronic Publishing