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.