Systematics of Leptopelis (Anura: Arthroleptidae) from the Itombwe Plateau, Eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo

Frank Portillo, University of Texas at El Paso


Leptopelis, a genus of Central African treefrogs, includes 51 species that live in tropical forests and savannas. Currently, only two species of Leptopelis are known from the poorly explored Itombwe Plateau in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Itombwe is renowned among conservationists for its rich and endemic amphibian fauna, including: Xenopus itombwensis, Chrysobatrachus cupreonitens, Laurentophryne parkeri, Hyperolius leleupi and at least three species of Arthroleptis. Evolutionary relationships of Itombwe Leptopelis were examined by sequencing two mitochondrial genes (16S: 557 bp [base pairs], cyt b: 620 bp) and one nuclear gene (RAG1: 761 bp). Results recovered strong support for several new lineages. Morphological characters and male advertisement call data were used to examine species boundaries in distinct lineages identified from the molecular phylogeny. Results indicated that the poorly known species Leptopelis fiziensis, originally described as a subspecies of L. modestus, is a distinct taxon from Cameroonian (topotypic) L. modestus, and a distinct east African population of L. modestus is described. Moreover a distinct L. karissimbensis population from Itombwe with low genetic divergence but distinct morphology and advertisement calls is described. The distinct calls between the recently diverged new species and the partially sympatric taxon L. karissimbensis are a likely consequence of reinforcement of species boundaries. This thesis represents the first phylogenetic analysis of Central African Leptopelis, and emphasizes the importance of the Itombwe Plateau as a conservation site.

Subject Area

Evolution and Development|Systematic|Zoology

Recommended Citation

Portillo, Frank, "Systematics of Leptopelis (Anura: Arthroleptidae) from the Itombwe Plateau, Eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo" (2012). ETD Collection for University of Texas, El Paso. AAI1533247.