For many years until his death, Carl Kauffeld, the director of the Staten Island Zoo and at the American Museum of Natural History, insisted that he had discovered a new species of frog leaving in New York and New Jersey, but faced widespread dismissals from his colleagues. Kauffeld died in 1974, but this week he received not just vindication but a new species named after him: Rana kauffeldi. The frog was found living in wetlands from Connecticut to North Carolina near I-95.
The honor is due to the work (and generosity) of Rutgers doctoral candidate Jeremy Feinberg and his colleagues who felt that the frog should be named after Kauffeld even though they supplied the definitive proof using previously unavailable tools like genetic testing and bioacoustic analysis.
They confirmed that, while two other leopard frogs in the area looked like it, Rana kauffeldi was “actually a third and completely separate species.” The results are contained in a paper in PLOS ONE: Cryptic Diversity in Metropolis: Confirmation of a New Leopard Frog Species from New York City and Surrounding Atlantic Coast Regions. This paper was co-authored by Joanna Burger, professor in the Department of Cell Biology and Neuroscience in the School of Arts and Sciences, as well as scientists from Yale, Louisiana State University, SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry, and the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife.
Feinberg first encountered the new leopard frog on Staten Island six years ago not far from the Statue of Liberty and will be commonly referred to as the Atlantic Coast Leopard Frog. We discussed the story at the time.
Kauffeld died relatively young at the age of 63 but he will now be immortalized with his frog. The team showed a generosity of spirit as well as considerable scientific skill in the discovery. Feinberg said that “After some discussion, we agreed that it just seemed right to name the species after Carl Kauffeld . . . to acknowledge his work and give credit where we believe it was due even though it was nearly 80 years after the fact.”
Congratulations to Kauffeld and particularly to the team at Rutgers. Here is their press release: Rutgers Press Release.
15 thoughts on “Meet Rana Kauffeldi: The New Frog Species Named After The Man Who First Found It 80 Years Ago”
My son Kris, grandson to Carl, is very pleased to see this honor bestowed on his grandfather. It’s kinda cool to have a frog in the family tree.
It would be incredibly foolish to bet that this species is listed as threatened or endangered before the year is up; then again, a fool and his money are soon parted, as they say.
First, the fact that this species range stretches from New York to North Carolina suggests that it is adaptable and not dependent on any one particular stand or wetland for survival the way the Northern spotted owl is confined to an isolated area.
Second, the listing process calls for population studies and review. Given the complexity of discerning between Rana kauffeldi and other species of leopard frogs, those studies would take at least several years to complete. Then there is the public comment period, where members of the public can weigh in on the merits of T&E listing for the species. That usually takes a half to three quarters of a year, and then there is an agency review before the final decision is made.
Considering that there are quite a few species that remain unlisted as T&E despite solid scientific evidence showing the need, like the wolf and the wolverine, it seems unlikely that the law will be used to protect many species in the future.
In spite of whatever prejudice the low-information citizen may have about the Endangered Species Act, too often its purpose is thwarted by the interests of
large corporations that care nothing about the environment and the people of this country.
RTC – willing to put a buck on it?
“bioacoustic analysis” — wondering what that entails?
The presence of this, or any other species, won’t affect development much; most wetlands are protected under the Clean Water Act, besides, this new species of Rana would have to be declared endangered before its presence could have any impact on development.
Wetlands, BTW, are essential for clean water and flood control. The problems with toxic algae blooms that we saw in Lake Erie this past summer could be mitigated by restoring the wetlands that surrounded the lake. Wetlands are so essential in fact, that if they did not exist, we would have to create them in order to supply our species with affordable clean water,
Who wants to lay money on this species being declared endangered by the end of the year.
Is this evolution? Seems so.
I’m sure he’s smiling up in heaven, vindicated at last!
The article doesn’t mention if he was survived by family. If so, I’m sure they were pleased.
It’s my understanding that when a new species gets a commemorative name, it’s usually named for someone other than the person applying for the name. In other words, you name a species for someone special to you, rather than yourself.
I could be wrong, though. Just thinking of the names that have stood out in memory. . .
I found his tombstone online:
A generous and altogether fitting tribute.
“The frog was found living in wetlands from Ct. to NC near I-95.” That is some of the most populated area in this country. Construction will not cease in that ~600 mile corridor.
Stopping construction in the area, or slowing it, seems like a great idea!
Oh good. One more species to stop construction in the area. At least they gave him credit.
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