Australian biologist gets the jump on new species of flying frog

SYDNEY, Jan 10 (Reuters) - An Australian biologist and

Vietnamese colleagues have made a surprise discovery - a new

species of flying frog gliding and jumping around less than 100

km from one of Southeast Asia's busiest cities.

Jodi Rowley and her team were conducting an amphibian survey

between two patches of lowland forest in the middle of

agricultural land criss-crossed by farmers and water buffalo

each day, some 90 km (56 miles) from Ho Chi Minh City, when they

made their find.

"And...there on a log just sitting on the side of the path

was this huge green flying frog," said Rowley, amphibian

biologist at the Australian Museum.

"To discover a previously unknown species of frog, I

typically have to climb rugged mountains, scale waterfalls and

push my way through dense and prickly rainforest vegetation."

The 10-cm (four-inch) bright green frog with a white belly

managed to evade biologists until recently by gliding between

treetops 20 metres (yards) up, only coming down to breed in

temporary rain pools.

Though discovered in 2009, it has taken until now to

identify it for certain as a new species. It has been named

Helen's Tree Frog (Rhacophorus helenae) after Rowley's mother.

The discovery highlighted the need for conservation in

lowland forests, which have come under huge threat, Rowley said.

The two patches of trees that are home to Helen's Tree Frog are

surrounded by rice paddies and agricultural land.

"We really don't know what's out there still in this part of

the world," Rowley said.

She added that her mother, suffering from ovarian cancer,

was very excited about having the "charismatic" amphibian named

after her.

"I thought it was about time that I showed her how much I

appreciate everything she's done for me," Rowley said.

(Reporting By Thuy Ong, editing by Elaine Lies and Nick Macfie)

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