Stunning Newly-discovered Species of Treefrog Found in Ecuador

A magnificent new species of stream frog from the Andes of Ecuador was named after J. R. R. Tolkien, creator of Middle-earth and author of famous fantasy works "The Hobbit" and "The Lord of the Rings.

It lives in the pristine streams of the Río Negro-Sopladora National Park, a recently declared protected area that preserves thousands of hectares of almost primary forests in southeastern Ecuador.

Hyloscirtus is a distinct genus of riverine amphibians distributed from Costa Rica to Bolivia.

Commonly known as stream frogs, their genus currently includes 39 species.

Their life is closely linked to the pure rivers and streams in the mountain areas of the Andes.

The adults live in the riparian vegetation, and their tadpoles develop among the rocks of the rapid waters of the rivers.

“Hyloscirtus tolkieni has amazing colors, and it would seem that it lives in a universe of fantasies, like those created by J.R.R. Tolkien,” said Dr. Diego Cisneros-Heredia, director of the Museum of Zoology of the Universidad San Francisco de Quito and a researcher at the Instituto Nacional de Biodiversidad.

“The truth is that the tropical Andes are magical ecosystems where some of the most wonderful species of flora, funga, and fauna in the world are present.”

“Unfortunately, few areas are well protected from the negative impacts caused by humans.”

“Deforestation, unsustainable agricultural expansion, mining, invasive species, and climate changes are seriously affecting Andean biodiversity.”

Hyloscirtus tolkieni occurs in the Río Negro-Sopladora National Park, on the eastern slopes of the Andes of southeastern Ecuador.

Hyloscirtus tolkieni

“For weeks, we explored different areas of the Río Negro-Sopladora National Park, walking from paramo grasslands at 3,100 m elevation to forests at 1,000 m,” said Dr. Juan Carlos Sánchez Nivicela, a researcher with the Museum of Zoology of the Universidad San Francisco de Quito and the Instituto Nacional de Biodiversidad.

“We spotted a single individual of this new species of frog, which we found impressive due to its coloration and large size.”

“Hyloscirtus tolkieni (common name – the Río Negro stream frog) is easily differentiated from all its frog relatives by its appearance and unique coloration.”

“It is relatively large (6.5 cm long), a grayish green back with yellow spots and black specks, and a pale pink and black iris.”

“Its throat, belly and flanks as well as the undersides of its legs are golden yellow with large black spots and dots, and its fingers and toes have black bars and spots and broad skin stripes.”

In the absence of sufficient information to evaluate the conservation status and extinction risk of Hyloscirtus tolkieni, the authors propose that it be classified under the Data Deficiency category until more data is obtained.

“Urgent research and monitoring actions should be established to study its life history and ecology, population size and trends, survey new sites where additional populations may exist and evaluate if threats are impacting its long-term conservation, such as invasive species, emerging diseases, or climate changes,” they said.


J.C. Sánchez-Nivicela et al. 2023. A new stream treefrog of the genus Hyloscirtus (Amphibia, Hylidae) from the Río Negro-Sopladora National Park, Ecuador. ZooKeys 1141: 75-92; doi: 10.3897/zookeys.1141.90290