Polypedates leucomystax species complex research

Species of the Poypedates genus are commonly referred to as whipping frogs because of the way they create foam nests to deposit their eggs. Species of this genus are found throughout South, Southeast, and East Asia. Of the 24 known species within Polypedates, six are widely distributed and, due to their very similar morphology, have been fraught with much taxonomic and distributional confusion, thus termed the Polypedates leucomystax complex of cryptic species. In this state of taxonomic uncertainty, senior herpetologist Dr. Jeff Wilkinson is attempting to understand the distributional patterns of species of Polypedates within Myanmar, which is situated within the potential geographic confluence of these six widespread species.

This research focuses on phylogenetic analyses (estimating evolutionary relationships) and morphological comparisons among the more than 500 specimens collected from throughout Myanmar by the California Academy of Sciences (Cal Academy) in San Francisco and Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C., and more than 1,000 DNA sequences and 600 specimens from throughout Asia in other herpetological collections, studies, and databases. Dr. Wilkinson’s research so far has revealed approximately 25 previously unidentified species from the Polypedates leucomystax species complex. He recently presented the results at the 2019 Joint Meeting of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists in a poster, which can be viewed here.

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