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Eleutherodactylus johnstonei

Noisy frogs, sleepless nights in São Paulo

Native to the Antilles, E. johnstonei has taken up residence in a São Paulo neighborhood

CÉLIO HADDAD / UNESPNative to the Antilles, E. johnstonei has taken up residence in a São Paulo neighborhoodCÉLIO HADDAD / UNESP

One night in 2012, a woman living in the Brooklin neighborhood of São Paulo heard a strange noise, so she called City Hall. Marcos Melo, the employee who went to investigate, recorded the sound and identified the culprit as Eleutherodactylus johnstonei, a tiny frog native to the Antilles. The frog’s ID was confirmed by biologist Mariana Lyra, a member of the research group headed by zoologist Célio Haddad at the Rio Claro campus of São Paulo State University (Unesp). She compared segments of its DNA to sequences that had been deposited in the international gene bank GenBank. These animals, which are three centimeters long at most, are believed to “hitchhike” on commercially available plants, but no one really knows how they spread to an entire city block in São Paulo. “They are everywhere,” says Haddad. “In cracks in the walls, inside houses, in gardens.” This type of frog doesn’t need pooled water to reproduce because its young emerge fully formed from their eggs, which means there is a strong possibility that it will become an invasive species. Its call, similar to a blaring siren, is so loud that the woman who made the complaint ended up hospitalized for lack of sleep. Health concerns aside, the frog’s deafening song could also affect the real estate market, as it did in a similar case in Hawaii. Accurate genetic identification can be crucial in finding a solution as quickly as possible, warns the paper published in Salamandra – German Journal of Herpetology on October 30, 2014.