The forests in the West African countries of Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia are such treasures of biodiversity that scientists don’t yet know nearly all the species that live there. Upon taking a closer look at frogs that live in and around waterfalls and fast-flowing river rapids, researchers found that what they thought was one species (Odontobatrachus natator) was in fact five separate ones, including four new to science.
The frogs look slightly different, with varying hues of green and brown skin, although they all have very similar anatomies. DNA tests of more than 150 specimens taken from forests throughout the three countries showed the species were very different, though, and likely all endangered due to their small populations and limited ranges. The results were published July 27 in the journal Zoosystematics and Evolution.
All these animals share the unusual characteristic of a tooth-like tusk on their lower jaw; typically frogs don’t have teeth here. Scientists have found that Odontobatrachus natator is capable of eating other frogs about its own size—nearly 2.5 inches long—though it’s unclear if this is their primary source of food or whether the new species share this predilection. The tadpoles of these species have special suckers that allow them to cling to rocks in the fast-flowing waters where they grow up.