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The Rio Grande Chirping Frog. (Special to the American Press)

The Rio Grande Chirping Frog. (Special to the American Press)

Father and son discover new species of frog

Last Modified: Tuesday, October 09, 2012 11:16 AM

By Ashley Withers / American Press

A new species of frogs has been identified in Southwest Louisiana by a local biologist and his new partner — a fifth grader at St. Theodore Holy Family Catholic School.

LSU-Eunice biology professor Avery Williams has identified numerous species throughout his career, but said this discovery was special because he got to work with his son A.J. Williams.

“I always thought it was a fun, goofy thing to do. I didn’t think I would have anyone else who would be interested in doing something like this. Most kids his age are interested in video games or sports or something like that, but he’s interested in science,” Avery said.

“I enjoy it. My poppa is a professor and I wanted to follow in his footsteps,” A.J. said. “And I thought it would be neat to find a frog!”

The frog, known as the “Rio Grande Chirping Frog” (Eleuthrodactylus cystignathoides), normally only occurs in south Texas and Mexico.

The pair’s journey to find the Rio Grande Chirping Frog spanned over two years. In 2010, Avery was contacted by his friend and fellow frog enthusiast Kirk Manuel about the possibility of the species living on his property in East Moss Bluff.

“He called me up and he told me he thought he heard this Rio Grande Chirping Frog in the back of his property. I was like, ‘no, no, no, You’re wrong because that frog doesn’t occur anywhere around here,’” Avery said.

“There was one other rare spotting in Caddo Parish, but for him to tell me he has them right here in Moss Bluff — that would be fantastic. But I kind of put him off.”

Avery said he told Manuel to keep listening to tapes of the Rio Grande Chirping Frog. After a year of Manuel’s observations, Avery agreed to come out and take a look.

“He was convinced. I said, ‘Alright Kirk, I’m going to come out and take a listen to it.’ I wasn’t there 30 seconds before I said, ‘That’s a Rio Grande Chirping Frog.’”

The pair searched for the frog for nearly a year before capturing one male frog back in April.

“We were on the frog hunt. We were wearing thick boots,” A.J. said. “We were on the hunt.”

“We went out and we heard it, but it was almost impossible to access them,” Avery said. “They are tiny, about a half-inch long, and hard to see.”

A.J. said he was “excited” to see their hard work pay off.

“My favorite part was actually finding the frog. It’s sweat, dirt, blood and tears that we put into this,” A.J. said. “The blood part comes from tripping on stuff in the woods.”

The Williams’ finding was published in the current issue of Herpetological Review, the quarterly bulletin of the Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles.

“It’s not like we’re off in some remote area of the earth. We’re right here in Moss Bluff,” Avery said. “There are exciting things still to be discovered in the state of Louisiana and in your own backyard. That’s exciting for us.”

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