, Volume 97, Issue 6, pp 525-543
Date: 17 Apr 2010

Living within fallen palm leaves: the discovery of an unknown Blommersia (Mantellidae: Anura) reveals a new reproductive strategy in the amphibians of Madagascar

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Abstract

We describe a new mantelline frog of the genus Blommersia found in rainforest in North East Madagascar, from the protected areas of Ambatovaky, Betampona, Masoala, and Zahamena. Blommersia angolafa n.sp. is a small frog, with a body size of 17–21 mm, expanded finger and toe tips, and colouration ranging from yellow to dark brown, with pale-bluish spots on the flanks and light tips of fingers and toes. A peculiar aspect characterising this new species is its novel life history and reproductive mode. Both sexes live and breed in a phytotelmic habitat of water accumulated within fallen prophylls and fallen leaf sheaths of at least three species of Dypsis palms. Within these phytotelmata, egg laying and complete larval development occur. Thus, B. angolafa n.sp. represents a new evolutionary lineage of Malagasy frogs in which phytotelmy is known. Up to now, reproduction in phytotelmata in Malagasy frogs has been reported for many cophyline microhylids, most species of Guibemantis, Mantella laevigata, and possibly in a still-undescribed species belonging to the genus Spinomantis. We consider the reproductive mode of B. angolafa as a derived character, having evolved from the more typical reproduction in lentic water bodies. The general scarcity of lentic habitats in Malagasy rainforests may have provided the conditions that favoured the evolution of this phytotelmic breeding strategy. The new species, being specialised to a habitat represented by a few selected Dypsis species, potentially suffers the selective exploitation of these palms.