The Science of Nature

, 106:19 | Cite as

Integrative evidence confirms new endemic island frogs and transmarine dispersal of amphibians between Madagascar and Mayotte (Comoros archipelago)

  • Frank GlawEmail author
  • Oliver Hawlitschek
  • Kathrin Glaw
  • Miguel Vences
Original Paper


Previous genetic studies of frogs from Mayotte Island (a French Overseas Department in the Comoros Archipelago) in the Western Indian Ocean have provided evidence for oceanic dispersal in amphibians, which is a rare phenomenon due to the osmotic intolerance of amphibians to saline water. Using an integrative approach including morphological, bioacoustic, and genetic evidence, we here confirm that these frogs correspond to two new species and are the only representatives of the family Mantellidae not endemic to Madagascar. Blommersia transmarina sp. nov. differs from its sister taxon, B. wittei, by several morphological differences including larger body size (snout-vent length up to 34.5 mm) and by slight differences in advertisement calls. Boophis nauticus sp. nov. differs from its closest relatives, B. tephraeomystax and B. doulioti, by slight morphological differences (including larger body size), a reddish (vs. silvery or golden) iris coloration in life, and slightly different advertisement calls. The two new species differ from their closest relatives by a substantial genetic differentiation, with pairwise genetic distances > 5% in the mitochondrial 16S rRNA gene, and based on the limited available data, also by distinct differences in nuclear DNA. They also are both larger than their closest relatives from Madagascar and B. transmarina sp. nov. is the largest Blommersia species, suggesting a moderate form of island gigantism. The Madagascan sister species B. wittei and B. doulioti are among the relatively few amphibian species occurring in the arid western biomes of the island, are adapted to open landscape, and reproduce in stagnant water bodies, which we hypothesize may represent important preadaptations for successful overseas colonization.


Integrative taxonomy Island gigantism Mantellidae New species Overseas dispersal 



We are grateful to Danny Laybourne, Guillaume Viscardi, and the other members of the DAF Mayotte for logistic support and for issuing research, collection, and export permits, and to the Naturalistes de Mayotte (Michel Charpentier, Marion Baudouin, Catherine Dionisio), Bastian Brenzinger, Ludovic Montfort, Mark D. Scherz, and Cynthia Wang for their help with fieldwork.

Funding information

The research was financially supported by the Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund (project 0925157) to F. Glaw and O. Hawlitschek, by DAAD grant D/09/49634 to O. Hawlitschek and the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft DFG (GL 314/1) to F. Glaw. The Freunde der Zoologischen Staatssammlung München, the Society of the University of Munich, and the EES funding program of the University of Munich provided additional financial support. The work at MNHN was financially supported by Synthesys grant FR-TAF-2988 to O. Hawlitschek.

Supplementary material

114_2019_1618_MOESM1_ESM.wav (517 kb)
ESM 1 Call of Blommersia transmarina sp. nov. (Blommersia_transmarina.wav) shown in Fig. 3 (WAV 517 kb)
114_2019_1618_MOESM2_ESM.wav (172 kb)
ESM 2 Calls of Boophis nauticus sp. nov. (Boophis_nauticus.wav) shown in Fig. 6 (WAV 172 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Frank Glaw
    • 1
    Email author
  • Oliver Hawlitschek
    • 1
  • Kathrin Glaw
    • 2
  • Miguel Vences
    • 3
  1. 1.Zoologische Staatssammlung München (ZSM-SNSB)MunichGermany
  2. 2.Museum Mensch und NaturSchloss NymphenburgMunichGermany
  3. 3.Division of Evolutionary Biology, Zoological InstituteBraunschweig University of TechnologyBraunschweigGermany

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