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New species of frog named for Joe Mendelson
Thursday, September 27, 2012

Telmatobius mendelsoni honors the contributions of a global amphibian ambassador

ATLANTA – September 27, 2012 –   A scientific expert at Zoo Atlanta has earned an unusually fitting honor: the name of a new species in the class of animals he has devoted his career to protecting. Telmatobius mendelsoni, a previously undescribed species of frog native to the Peruvian Andes in South America, has been named in honor of Joe Mendelson, PhD, the Zoo’s Curator of Herpetology.

The species’ description and name were recently published in the South American Journal of Herpetology, authored by Dr. Ignacio De la Riva, National Museum of Natural Sciences in Spain, and Drs. Linda Trueb and William Duellman from the University of Kansas. Sadly, like many other members of the genus Telmatobius, some of which may already be extinct in the wild, the frog that bears Mendelson’s name is believed to be critically endangered.

“This is a tremendous honor and a career highlight, but even more humbling is the possibility that this species may not be around long enough for us to learn more about it,” said Mendelson. “It’s always exhilarating to learn of a species that was previously unknown to science; it’s proof of the staggering richness of biodiversity on Earth. Given the challenges now facing amphibians around the world, it’s imperative that we protect these animals before we observe more evidence of extinctions of species we never even knew existed.”

T. mendelsoni represents the first time Mendelson has been on the receiving end of taxonomy, but he has himself already named more than 30 new species of amphibians and reptiles over the course of his career. Many of these have resulted from biodiversity surveys in Latin America, where the crisis of amphibian decline is most evident. Chytridiomycosis, an illness caused by a fungal pathogen known as chytrid, has already wiped out entire frog species and caused catastrophic declines in others, and Mendelson was among the world’s first responders to a mysterious and alarming global trend of amphibian extinctions.

In addition to overseeing the care of a nationally renowned collection of over 800 amphibians and reptiles representing more than 100 species, Mendelson is an international ambassador for amphibian conservation and outreach. He is President of the Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles and serves on the advisory board of the Amphibian Ark.

“It’s safe to say that Joe is one of the foremost experts in his field in the world, and we’re proud to have such a deeply committed talent here at Zoo Atlanta,” said Dwight Lawson, PhD, Deputy Director. “Joe’s knowledge, tenacity and passion continue to help us educate and inspire countless Members, guests and students who may never otherwise have been aware that without significant conservation action, our planet really does stand to lose an entire class of animals.”