a Mystical Stream Frog Named JRR Tolkien

  • Scientists have discovered an unusual frog in the jungles of Ecuador.
  • The colors and patterns of the stream frog reminded researchers of fantasy author JRR Tolkien.
  • One researcher told Insider that he envisions the frog living in the forest of Fangorn.

First came Leonardo DiCaprio’s snakes. Now comes Tolkien’s frogs.

A frog fit for a role in one of JRR Tolkien’s fantasy worlds was discovered in the pristine streams of the Río Negro-Sopladora National Park in Ecuador – a country literally located on the equator – the BETWEEN on earth.

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

“In a stream in the forest there lived a Hyloscirtus. Not an ugly, dirty stream, with its filth of contamination and a muddy smell, nor a dry, bare, sandy stream without anything to step on or eat: it is a Hyloscirtus-stream, and that means environmental quality,” the study authors wrote in the opening paragraph of their paper, published in the journal ZooKeys. (The paragraph is an adaptation of the famous first line of “The Hobbit.” )

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

“The encounter with this frog was very surprising,” Sánchez-Nivicela told Insider in an email interview. “While we were sampling near a ravine and going through the vegetation, the only specimen known to date jumped in our direction. .”

Because there is only one Hyloscirtus tolkieni discovered so far, there is still much to be learned about how many exist and in which regions they live. The authors note in their statement that deforestation, unsustainable agricultural practices, and other environmental threats have harmed species in the Andes mountain regions. About 57% of amphibian species in Ecuador are threatened with extinction.

A green and yellow frog with brown speckles and brown eyes looks into the distance while hanging on a green branch with legs.

Hyloscirtus tolkieni, named after fantasy author JRR Tolkein

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

Sánchez-Nivicela told Insider that the mountain forest where the brook frog lives is full of “unique landscapes” of moss and abundant vegetation. The authors of the study noted in a statement that the protected area is how they discovered a significant number of species since 2020.

“I thought of this forest in Fangorn, south of the Misty Mountains and this frog that lives with the Ents,” Sánchez-Nivicela said.

A dark green forest

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

Juan C. Sánchez-Nivicela

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

He and his colleagues are fans too. Sánchez-Nivicela describes himself and his co-workers as “dreamers” whose jobs take them to places similar to the scenic landscapes represented in books and art.

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

The stream frog takes its place among other amphibians that may exist in Middle Earth – including a stubby, wood-loving frog named Bilbo Baggins who lives on the other side of the Atlantic.

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