Frogo Baggins: Scientists Name New Amphibian After J.R.R. Tolkien

When scientists surveying a stream in Rio Negro-Sopladora National Park, Ecuador discovered a new species of frog, they promptly named it after British fantasy author J.R.R. Tolkien. The move proves once and for all that as nerdy as you think you are, you absolutely cannot be nerdier than a group of herpetologists willing to put the following in their peer-reviewed academic paper:

“In a stream in the forest, there lived a Hyloscirtus. Not a nasty, dirty stream, with spoor of contamination and a muddy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy stream with nothing in it to perch on or to eat: it was a Hyloscirtus-stream, and that means environmental quality.”

The fellowship of scientists discovered the new species, dubbed Hyloscirtus tolkieni, during fieldwork on the eastern slope of the Andes in 2020. Ecuador — a country in the middle of our Earth, if you will — has a plethora of lush, high-elevation, murky woods. Exactly the sort of place stream frogs and/or hobbits twisted by a magical ring like to hang out.

The location of the stream where the scientists collected the new species. Photo: Juan C. Sanchez-Nivicela.


Fantasy colors

Upon their discovery, the researchers were struck by the vivid patterns splayed across the frog’s skin.

“The amazing colors of the new species evoke the magnificent creatures that seem to only exist in fantasy worlds,” Juan C. Sanchez-NivicelaJose M. Falcon-Reiban, and Diego F. Cisneros-Heredia wrote in their paper. 

four different views of the frog

A: frontolateral view B: lateral view of head C: frontal view D: dorsolateral view. Photo: Juan C. Sanchez-Nivicela.


Sanchez-Nivicela and company found only one example of the new species, which is set apart from its cousins in the Hyloscirtus genus by its “large body size…broad dermal fringes in fingers and toes…[and] yellow spots and black speckles.” 

Amphibian surveys in the Andes are important, as ongoing deforestation and other issues have placed 57 percent of amphibian species in Ecuador under threat of extinction. 

“The tropical Andes are magical ecosystems where some of the most wonderful species of flora, fungi, and fauna in the world are present,” Cisneros-Heredia said in a statement. “Unfortunately, few areas are well protected from the negative impacts caused by humans. Deforestation, unsustainable agricultural expansion, mining, invasive species, and climate change are seriously affecting Andean biodiversity.”

What can men do against such reckless hate?

Hopefully, Sanchez-Nivicela, Falcon-Reiban, and Cisneros-Heredia can find some more frogs out there. When they do, the ExplorersWeb staff humbly suggest balfrogi as a potential species name.

Andrew Marshall

Andrew Marshall is an award-winning painter, photographer, and freelance writer. Andrew’s essays, illustrations, photographs, and poems can be found scattered across the web and in a variety of extremely low-paying literary journals.
You can find more of his work at, @andrewmarshallimages on Instagram and Facebook, and @pawn_andrew on Twitter (for as long as that lasts).