Saturday, January 9, 2010

What's in a name?

I know that some of you probably live in Manzanita Village. If so, or if you have been out near a pond after dark lately, you have probably heard the deafening sound of frogs. The loudest local spots I've noticed are the pond between Manzanita Village and the lagoon and, a little later in the year, the wet area between Storke road and the golf course.

We don't have any tree frogs in England so when I came to California I was amazed to find out that all the noise is made by these little guys, Pseudacris regilla - often not much bigger than an inch.

For a little frog they also have a lot of names - at least two common names: the Pacific tree frog, and the Pacific Chorus frog and lots of people just call them Hyla because they used to be called Hyla regilla. Until 2005 Hyla was a large genus of frogs with over 300 species. However a systematic review of the genus Hyla in 2005 split the genus into three new genera: Aris, Limnaoedus, and Pseudacris (why do you think they did this?), requiring the renaming of all 300 plus species.

Although the revision better reflects our understanding of the evolution of these frogs it's unfortunate that this involves renaming all the frogs and the loss of some familiar names. The frogs haven't changed just our understanding of their evolution.

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