A new paper, led by Beryl Akoth Bwong (formerly a colleague of mine in University of Basel but now at the National Museums of Kenya) is out now! In this work we investigated the phylogeography and systematics of Hyperolius mitchelli, a widespread species in Tanzania and Malawi, along with its closest relatives (including H. rubrovermiculatus from Kenya and H. stictus from Mozambique). This group is an interesting species complex, and there still remain several undescribed evolutionary lineages that we documented to expand knowledge of this group for their future conservation.
Being able to identify species properly is one of the fundamental requirements of protecting them, but this is not always so straightforward, even when you have one right there in front of you along with a species identification guide. A particular problem with this group is that morphological and colour variation is extremely high, even within a single species, as is the case for most Hyperoliidae (African sedge and bush frogs). This means that we need to employ additional methods to determine species identities.
In this work we did exactly this, combining genetics, morphology and acoustic analyses to analyse populations from across all three species ranges. We found several unique lineages within H. mitchelli, and also that populations in northern Tanzania (previously assumed to be H. mitchelli) are actually a geographically isolated lineage of the Kenyan species, H. rubrovermiculatus. This simultaneously extends the known geographic range of H. rubrovermiculatus (listed as Endangered by the IUCN) and reduces the known geographic range of H mitchelli (listed as Least Concern by the IUCN). With this work we further refine our knowledge of species identities, genetic composition and geographic ranges, which will all ultimately influence how they are categorised by the IUCN redlist in the future, and potentially help to better conserve important habitats for species.
The full article is available from the African Journal of Herpetology here