December 5, 2012

A new frog and new fish discovered in the Klein Swartberg Conservancy

A conservancy is an informal conservation area comprising of like-minded landowners. These landowners have recognised that in order to protect the environment in which they live, co-operation is essential. The Caledon Swartberg Conservancy is a proud custodian of a new species of frog and fish. This once again highlights the importance of conservation to ensure the protection of these rare and endangered species.

A new species of moss frog (genus Arthroleptella) has been described from the Klein Swartberg Mountain near Caledon in the Western Cape Province, South Africa to which it is confined. This species is distinguished from other Arthroleptella species by the large number of very distinct glandular protuberances on the dorsal surfaces, unique calls and by molecular differences. It is also known as the Rough moss frog.

Female Rough Moss Frog
Female Rough Moss Frog

Moss frogs are among the smallest of South African frogs. Females of the Rough Moss Frog attain a snout-vent length of 15.5 mm, with the males being slightly smaller at 12–14 mm. Adult colour may be uniformly brown to dark grey, or with paler irregular dorsolateral bands. The belly is dark grey to black with small white spots. Males have a dark black throat. Distinct glandular protuberances are present on the dorsal surfaces. Front and hind legs are unwebbed. They are extremely limited in distribution, currently known only from a few localities on the southern slopes of the Caledon Swartberg Mountain.

Conservation status – Since this frog was only recently (2008) described as a new species, its official IUCN conservation status has yet to be formalised. However, a provisional assessment lists the species as Critically Endangered.

New Fish

Up until recently it was thought that only one member of the Galaxiidae occurs in South Africa, i.e. Galaxias zebratus (Cape Galaxias). A team from the South African Institute for Aquatic Biodiversity is currently investigating the taxonomy of this species, and it seems as though several cryptic species have been confused with the Cape Galaxias. The taxon at Voorhoede in Caledon appears to be one of the new and as yet undescribed species within this complex. As such it is not possible to provide specifics on its biology or the extent of its distribution. The Cape Galaxias was originally described from the Cape Flats near Cape Town by the French Count Castelnau in 1861. Since then it has been recorded from coastal streams and rivers from the Keurbooms on the south coast to the Clanwilliam/Olifants system on the west coast. In 1995 it was also discovered in the Krom River and Gamtoos River systems.

Cape Galaxias variant
Cape Galaxias variant

An adult Galaxias collected in the Voorhoede farm dam. Note the lack of stripes that characterize typical Cape Galaxias Galaxias zebratus.

Cape Galaxias is a very small (35–40mm), elongate, tubular and scaleless fresh water fish. The name zebratus refers to striping on the body which varies from one population to the next, but which is absent from Voorhoede population. They inhabit streams and pools with dense aquatic and marginal vegetation. Specimens were collected in the large, well-vegetated pool that constitutes the remains of the breached dam. Galaxias are secretive fishes which quickly dart under rocks or into dense plant growth if threatened. They appear to spawn all year round. Their diet consists of small aquatic inveretbrates ssuch as mosquito, black fly and midge larvae.

Conservation status – The taxonomic status of this fish this is currently still unresolved, and accordingly the conservation status has yet to be determined. All indications are that it is a new species with a limited distribution, and it is likely to receive a listing of Endangered or higher i.e. Critically Endangered.

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