3 Nov 2019

Arabian Tree Frog – Talea Valley

Whilst birding the Talea Valley in mid-October, Phil Roberts showed me a small area of permanent water with nice growths of reed mace. Whilst loking aroung this area I came across a few tree frogs. On studying these tree frogs I came across a recent paper from 2010 on tree frogs in the Middle East using mitochondrial and nuclear sequence data in combination with a phylogeographic approach discovered a new species, H. felixarabica, which is distributed in the Arabian Peninsula and southern Levant, eastward from the Dead Sea Rift. This points to a biogeographic connection between south-western Arabia and southern Levant, and highlights the importance of the Dead Sea fault system, which probably played a primary role as a barrier when formed in the late Miocene. Genetic structure of the new species as well as of H. savignyi consist of two main mitochondrial lineages in each species, which originated presumably during the Plio–Pleistocene boundary. However, persisting gene flow or incomplete lineage sorting caused discordant intraspecific phylogeographic patterns of the nuclear markers. The Anatolian and Caucasus–Caspian populations of H. orientalis demonstrated high genetic variation, suggesting that these regions were important Pleistocene refugia. However, it will be necessary also to study European populations to infer a complete evolutionary history of this species, which will be a subject of a forthcoming study. Diagnosis and comparisons. Hyla felixarabica is a medium sized member of the genus Hyla as revealed from general morphology and genetics, distinguished from other species by (1) genetic data, (2) acoustic data – advertisement calls and (3) morphology. Václav Gvozdík, Moravec J, Klütsch C & Kotlík P (2010). Phylogeography of the Middle Eastern tree frogs (Hyla, Hylidae, Amphibia) as inferred from nuclear and mitochondrial DNA variation, with a description of anew species. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 55: 1146–1166. The English name of this species appears to be Arabian Tree Frog. Morphologically, H. felixarabica differs from H. savignyi (character states in parentheses) by more truncate snout in lateral view (round in lateral view), snout barely protruding the anterior margin of maxilla in ventral view (markedly protruding the anterior margin of maxilla in ventral view), frequent disruption of dark line separating dorsal and ventral coloration on tibia and tarsus into the irregular marbling (usually straight dark line on tibia and tarsus), whitish outline of dorsal coloration reaching cloacal sheath because of reduced dark supracloacal streak or spot (dark horizontal supracloacal streak or spot separating cloacal sheath from whitish outline of the dorsal coloration usually present), frequent presence of an irregular longitudinal loop-like spot or streak in the groins connected in some cases to the dark lateral stripe (spots in the groins, if present, only rarely of a loop-like shape). The new species differs from H. heinzsteinitzi by absence of strong fragmentation of dark lateral stripe (dark lateral stripe). In the Arabian Peninsula, H. felixarabica inhabits the regions above 1400 m a.s.l. in south-western Saudi Arabia to south-western Yemen. It also occurs in the In the Levant, where it seems to be distributed eastward from the Dead Sea Rift (Wadi Arabah, Jordan Valley, Huleh Valley, Beqaa Valley), in which a contact and possible hybrid zone with H. savignyi is situated. Hyla felixarabica has been confirmed in the Levant in western Jordan, southern Syria and in extreme north-eastern Israel.
Arabian Tree Frog

Arabian Tree Frog

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