Mountain creature — with ‘yolk-yellow’ groin and armpits — discovered as new species

A small creature with a “yolk-yellow” underside sat on a mountain in southwestern China and breathed in the thin air. Something about the animal caught the attention of nearby scientists. It turned out to be a new species.

Researchers ventured into the peaks of a mountain range in Yunnan province in 2019, according to a study published Nov. 6 in the journal Animals. The area is a well-known biodiversity hotspot.

While exploring the peak, researchers found six small frogs, the study said. They took a closer look at the frogs and realized they’d discovered a new species: Nanorana laojunshanensis, or the Laojunshan slow frog.

Laojunshan slow frogs are considered “small,” reaching about 1.4 inches in size, researchers said. They have “robust” limbs, “oval” tongues and “rough” skin.

Photos show the multicolored Laojunshan slow frog. The frog’s back is chestnut brown with dark brown-black splotches. Underneath, its belly is creamy white with “yolk-yellow” groin and armpits, the study said.

A Nanorana laojunshanensis, or Laojunshan slow frog, seen from the top and underside.
A Nanorana laojunshanensis, or Laojunshan slow frog, seen from the top and underside.

Laojunshan slow frogs live in ponds and marshes at an elevation of about 13,000 feet, researchers said.

So far, Laojunshan slow frogs have been found only on Mount Laojun in Yunnan province, about 1,200 miles southwest of Shanghai and near the China-Myanmar border. Researchers said they named the new species after the location where it was discovered.

The new species was identified by its size, body shape, teeth and coloring, the study said. DNA analysis found the new species had between 1.6% and 2% genetic divergence from other slow frogs.

The research team included Shangjing Tang, Shuo Liu and Guohua Yu.

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