Andes Hopping with Three New Rain Frogs

The discoveries highlight the rich diversity of two sites along the mountain range.

Photo: Pristimantis yanezi is one of three new rain frog species recently found in the Andes. Credit: Santiago Ron It's a tale of three rain frogs in the Andes, as two studies have just described new species in that mountain range in Ecuador and Peru.

Researchers from the Museo de Zoología at Catholic University of Ecuador explored a little-investigated region of the Ecuadorian Andes and found two new frogs in the highly diverse genus Pristimantis.

Meanwhile, South American and North American scientists teamed up on the discovery of another frog in that genus – Pristimantis pluvialis.

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The pair of species from Ecuador, P. llanganati and P. yanezi, were found in the Llanganates National Park, which has vast swaths of land that can only be accessed on foot. For that reason, it holds great promise for new animal discoveries.

Like other frog species inhabiting the park's forests, P. llanganati and P. yanezi have a "spiky" look and develop directly into frogs, without any tadpole stage and metamorphosis.

The researchers say that with so few frogs cataloged in the region, it's likely there are yet more Pristimantis species to be found.

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Nextdoor, in Peru, it was another new Pristimantis species, as researchers from Southern Illinois University Carbondale, the University of Michigan, and the National University of San Antonio Abad of Cusco, in Peru, came across P. pluvialis during nighttime fieldwork in a region close to Manu National Park.

The protected area is known for incredible diversity of its reptile and amphibian residents.

P. pluvialis also eschews a tadpole stage, though it's not spiky, like the other two new hoppers. Instead, it boasts smoother skin and has a call that's distinct from other members of Pristimantis.

Its terrain is decidedly wet, receiving more than 26 feet (8 meters) of rain each year. The scientists reported that they only encountered the frog using its call after heavy rainstorms had occurred.

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The researchers found four of the 10 P. pluvialis were infected with the deadly chytrid fungus that has ravaged many amphibians worldwide. They don't know yet how the fungus will affect the species and so far have not seen the frog's population decline.

"This discovery highlights the need for increased study throughout the tropics, for example Manu NP and its surrounding areas have been well studied, but despite these efforts, new species are being continuously discovered," said lead author Alex Shepack, of Southern Illinois University Carbondale, in a statement.

Detailed findings on P. pluvialis have been published online in the journal ZooKeys, as has the research on the Ecuadorian frogs P. llanganati and P. yanezi.