Professor Helps to Discover New Species of Frog
Photo by Alessandro Catenazzi
The Bryophryne hanssaueri is one of the three types of new species of frogs discovered
by Lehr and Catenazzi.
September 28, 2009
BLOOMINGTON, Ill. – Edgar Lehr, assistant professor of biology at Illinois Wesleyan
University, is part of a duo that recently discovered three new species of frogs living
in the forests of southern Peru.
Lehr and his partner, Swiss-Peruvian ecologist Alessandro Catenazzi from the University
of California at Berkeley, have worked together to uncover more than 10 new species
of amphibians. “We should know what else is living on our planet,” said Lehr, who
noted scientists estimate there are between 5 million to 100 million organisms on
Earth, with only about 2 million classified. “So we are far from a true understanding
of the complete planet.”
The three recently discovered species are excellent examples of the diversity of amphibians,
according to Lehr. All three new species – Bryophryne hanssaueri, Bryophryne gymnotis, and Bryophryne zonalis – actually do not have a tadpole phase. “Every school child learns that frog eggs
turn into tadpoles, but across the globe, there are frogs who carry eggs on their
back, or in pouches on their back. There was even a frog in Australia that swallowed
eggs to let them develop inside her stomach,” he pauses and smiles. “Can you tell
I love frogs?” With their discovery, there are now six known Bryophryne species.
Over the past several years, Lehr has made nearly two dozen trips to the Peruvian
forests. His first journey there dates back to 1997, when he was working on his doctorate
from the University of Frankfurt am Main in Germany. After earning his degree, he
worked at the State Natural History Collections in Dresden, Germany, where he was
the curator of herpetology. He joined the Illinois Wesleyan biology faculty this fall.
Photo by Edgar Lehr
The Cloud Forest in Peru, where Assistant Professor of Biology Edgar Lehr travels
often for research.
Along with advancing the field of biology with their discoveries, Lehr said he and
Catenazzi are also assisting conservation efforts in Peru, reinforcing the necessity
of the protection of the national forests where the frogs were discovered. “Will tourists
be able to see each type of frog discovered? Probably not,” said Lehr. “But when we
report the discoveries to the Peruvian ministries, it strengthens their arguments
that national forests are needed for these species we never knew existed.”
The co-author of Terrestrial-Breeding Frogs (Stabomantidae) in Peru (Natur- und Tier-Verlag, 2009) Lehr has built an impressive career studying amphibian
species. First published at the age of 17, he discovered a new species of turtle at
age 23 when he was studying in South Vietnam, and so far has described 70 new species.
He is the recipient of several grants, including those from the German Research Foundation,
the BIOPAT initiative, the Alexander von Humbolt Foundation, the Field Museum of Natural
History and the American Museum of Natural History. He is associate editor of the
Journal of Herpetology.
Lehr plans to return to Peru to continue his research and classification of amphibian
species. “I enjoy the vastly diverse biodiversity,” he said. “I will travel there
until I cannot travel anymore.” Continuing the research is important for humans to
have a deeper understanding of our home, he added. “When we understand more about
the species that live on this planet, we can understand how we are interconnected,
and how each species contributes to our lives.”
Contact: Rachel Hatch, (309) 556-3960