Zoology Museum Houses Type Specimen of Endemic Taipei Frog
Original article by NTU Museum of Zoology
The Taipei tree frog was first identified as a species in 1978.
Image: jasonkao73 (Wiki Commons)
Type specimen of the Taipei tree frog
Image: NTU Museum of Zoology
Type specimen of the Mientien tree frog.
Image: NTU Museum of Zoolog
During the evenings, a unique vibrating melody from nature echoes through the urban surroundings of Taipei City. The sound comes from the no more than five centimeter large Taipei tree frog, whose calls are even more vibrant and energetic during mating season. While citizens of the city may be familiar with its croaks, the tiny creature is often elusive to the majority of the residents.
Academically, the elusive tree frog was for decades mistaken for its Japanese cousin, the Japanese green tree frog. It was not until 1978 that NTU’s Chin-Jan Wang (王慶讓) and Prof. Run-Sheng Liang (梁潤生) finally identified the tiny green croaker as an individual species endemic to Taiwan. The two scholars thereby published their findings and entitled the frog the Rhacophorus taipeianus.
Wang was a librarian at the Department of Animal Science and Technology Library during his near four-decade career at NTU. During his residency, Wang spared no efforts in introducing new methodologies and software programs to create an optimized environment for the department’s students and faculty. He also conducted extensive research into various amphibian species, including frogs, Anura (tailless amphibians), and Enyalioides (wood lizards). In addition to discovering the Taipei tree frog, Wang and Liang contributed greatly to the vast collection of specimens at the Museum of Zoology. While most of the amphibious specimens were collected by Prof. Liang and his students during field studies, it was Wang who conducted the identification and login process of the items.
In collaboration with the Japanese scholar Mr. Kuramato, Wang also published the important discovery of the Mientien tree frogs (Kurixalus idiootocus), another species endemic to Taiwan. The type specimens he created for both the Taipei and Mientien tree frogs are still stored at the Museum of Zoology.
The discovery of the Taipei tree frog was based on the two scholars’ many years of experience as well as careful observation in differentiating the two species. If it were not for their perceptiveness, we may have never been able to uncover this diverse and interesting aspect of Taiwan’s biodiversity.
Q: What is a “Type specimen”?
A: When scientists publish a new species, a type specimen is created to officially record the morphological characteristics and official title of the sample.
Q: Why have the specimens lost their color?
A: The vibrant green colors have faded because the samples’ chromoproteins have been destroyed with the process of creating the specimens.
Related: Tiny Taiwanese Frog Uses Concrete Drain to Boost Mating Calls (2014/06/23 NTU Spotlight)