Content Author Object Flagger Flag Created Reason Resolved by Resolution
Northern Pacific Tree Frog (Pseudacris regilla) loarie Thu, 16 May 2019 18:41:10 +0000

time to lump?

Not Resolved


Hi top 10 Pseudacris regilla (sensu lato) identifiers
@alexb0000, @calebcam, @dominic, @john8, @mikepatterson, @gregpauly @biohexx1, @kueda, @tiwane

we split Pseudacris regilla (sensu lato) into Pseudacris regilla (sensu stricto), Pseudacris sierra, and Pseudacris hypochondriaca several years ago because we were trying to keep in sync with Amphibian Species of the World

AmphibiaWeb has still not accepted this split because "it is impossible to determine the borders of the putative species"

Also no one is questioning that Pseudacris regilla (sensu stricto), Pseudacris sierra, and Pseudacris hypochondriaca is not a monophyletic group (specifically they make up a distinct clade sister to Pseudacris cadaverina)

There's been continued confusion IDing these species along the unknown boundaries, and some people continue to use Pseudacris regilla (sensu stricto) as if it were Pseudacris regilla (sensu lato)

We now have 2 new tools that may help:

1) Deviation - we're now using Taxon Frameworks for amphibians which makes it pretty straightforward to deviate from Amphibian Species of the World and go with Pseudacris regilla (sensu lato)

2) Complexes - because these taxa make up a distinct clade, we could also add a node of rank 'complex' between Genus Pseudacris and these 3 species.

We can also (3) status quo

I vote for 1 or 2. Are folks in favor of 1, 2, or 3?

Posted by loarie over 3 years ago (Flag)


Posted by biohexx1 over 3 years ago (Flag)

or 3.

Posted by biohexx1 over 3 years ago (Flag)

I commend your bravery. If we go with a "complex" does that mean we have to identify all of these at the complex level? That sounds annoying and confusing to all the people who couldn't give a toss about pedantic taxonomic messes due to poor sampling and inadequate peer review standards. It would also mean most of these records will not get shared with data partners like GBIF (won't qualify for RG unless people vote that the ID is as good as it can get). Or would a "complex" mean we only ID at the "complex" level at the range borders?

If we only use the "complexes" at the range borders then I guess I'm cool with 2. If not, I would prefer 1 because it's the clearest and easiest to use treatment for the largest amount of people (argument form utility), or 3 because it complies with ICZN rules (presumably; argument from authority).

Also worth considering: have P. sierra and P. hypochodriaca been adopted by major partner orgs, and/or have they been used in conservation statuses with legal ramifications? If either of those are true, then they have utility for conservation, supporting option 1 with complexes only at borders or option 3.

Posted by kueda over 3 years ago (Flag)

The complex would be the parent of the 3 species, so thats where the community ID would go for controversial obs, but I think in practice obs would only sit at the complex node when its not clear which child they should belong to (ie Bay Area obs would prob still mostly uncontroversially settle at P. sierra)

For an example of a complex in practice see:
and as expected obs sitting at the complex node mostly are along the uncertain boundary (but looking at that, it is a pretty broad area)

Posted by loarie over 3 years ago (Flag)

I'm not a biologist, but I think every biologist I know in California is unhappy with this split. So based on that, I say go with no. 1 unless there are conservation issues like kueda mentioned. But I don't feel too strongly either way, as long as we're clear about the choice.

Posted by tiwane over 3 years ago (Flag)

I'm also just a layman but I like option 1, since from what I've read online I agree that it seems like most actual biologists didn't agree with the spit in the first place. I've also never been a fan of splitting species when there's no reliable physical differences and no hard geographic boundary, I understand the logic behind it from a genetics standpoint but if they all look the same and can interbreed across their range do they really need to be split at that level, since naming species is just for human convenience anyway? Splitting them leads to these gradient/hybrid areas along the borders, where it's impossible for anyone to identify an individual to a species since they're going to be a genetic mix of the two defined species.

If option 1 is too radical then I think option 2 is also fine, since it at least lets us identify the frogs in those border areas as something beyond generic Pseudacris.

Posted by alexb0000 over 3 years ago (Flag)

I wrote a journal post about this very issue.

And I live in a place that gets lots of treefrogs but I'm in an 'overlap' zone assuming that ranges are correct. As much as I believe that option one is the best, I still don't think it would be wise since we don't have solid proof that they are one species and vice versa. The one thing I know for sure is, there is a lot of room for future studies. And I think in till we have more information, I think a complex would be the best decision.

Posted by birdwhisperer over 3 years ago (Flag)

I definitely vote for a complex until further research is done. 2 for me.

Posted by calebcam over 3 years ago (Flag)

Has a decision been made/discussed during the last 4 months? Coming from a guy who keeps finding frogs and identifying them to Pseudacris but identifiers keep fighting over it being Northern Pacific or Sierran.

Posted by birdwhisperer about 3 years ago (Flag)

Distinct morphological criteria for distinguishing P. hypochondriaca from its sister species the Northern Pacific Treefrog, Pseudacris regilla, have not yet been established. The controversial 2006 paper splitting the P. regilla taxon into three species had no range maps or morphological keys to distinguish the three "new" species, and relied on a very small MtDNA sampling missing most areas of the extensive range. "Phylogeography of Pseudacris regilla (Anura: Hylidae) in western North America, with a proposal for a new taxonomic rearrangement" in Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution. 39 (2): 293–304 is not well accepted.
Also differing and conflicting range maps now vary widely on this group and where the splits are (some even show Pseudacris sierra in northern Utah, others claim all of western Utah as P. hypochondriaca.) Because the paper provided no maps or discussion of how to diagnose the species, it has been an extremely controversial taxonomic revision. It was discussed and the revisions summarily ignored in:
Dodd, C. K., Jr. 2013. Frogs of the United States and Canada. Volume 1. xxxi + 460.
Pragmatically should be P. regilla until the revision claims can be substantiated or dismissed based on more comprehensive research.

Posted by jeremy_westerman almost 3 years ago (Flag)

this paper addresses problematic reactionary taxonomy revisions based on limited genetic sampling
Species Delimitation in Herpetology

Posted by jeremy_westerman almost 3 years ago (Flag)

@uta_stansburiana This may be the thread you'd post your thoughts on. And perhaps to develop some new discussion, it has well been over a year since this flag was created and it sounds like we haven't even gotten close to coming to a decision on this taxon's status on iNat.

Posted by birdwhisperer over 2 years ago (Flag)

Yes, it'd be great to see one of these solutions applied.

Posted by alexb0000 over 2 years ago (Flag)

I’m a little late here, but why is Pseudacris regilla still spit in iNaturalist? I normally understand why a certain taxonomy is followed, even if I don’t necessarily agree with it. However this one isn’t even supported by any of the data bases, AWS considered recognizing the split provisionally but stated that they are probably invalid while Amphibiaweb and the iucn don’t even recognize it, and there is literally no way to tell them apart with a photograph, so why does iNat continue to follow the split?

Posted by phrynosoma20 7 months ago (Flag)

Does iNat take into account that these taxa were added provisionally? Just seems like even if they were valid, without known diagnostic criteria we can’t identify either of the three proposed species in a photograph and can only infer some identifications based on their location, despite not knowing the actual range delineations of any of the three proposed species. How are observers supposed to tell which of these three species are present in a specific area and where/if they overlap, hybridize, etc.?

Posted by phrynosoma20 7 months ago (Flag)

We take external references at face value, so if AWS includes P. regilla sensu stricto, P. hypochondriaca, & P. sierra (which it does) thats what we would consider the status of the external reference. If we want to do something other than whats in the external reference than we would consider that a deviation from the external reference (e.g. P. regilla sensu lato)

Posted by loarie 7 months ago (Flag)

What's interesting is that I read your link and it even says:

"Barrow, Ralicki, Emme, and Lemmon, 2014, Mol. Phylogenet. Evol., 75: 78–90, suggested that the distinction of this taxon [Pseudacris sierra], drawn on the basis of mtDNA, was not supported by nuDNA analysis. This suggests that this taxon will will ultimately be included into the synonymy of Pseudacris regilla."

So, it's even been admitted that the genetics data is not sound, and the Pseudacris spilt was premature.

Posted by birdwhisperer 7 months ago (Flag)

Even if these taxa were valid, how would we distinguish them without any proper range or diagnostic information? If you were to find one of these frogs around a supposed grey area of their ranges. Which species would you assign it as? We can’t tell them apart visually so this doesn’t seems like the appropriate route.

Perhaps iNat should deviate, after all AWS considers recognizing these species in the future to be highly unlikely.

Posted by phrynosoma20 7 months ago (Flag)

I'm still in favor of combining them, but I think adding a P. regilla complex is possibly the best compromise, since it would leave the individual species available to ID for anyone who wants to or in their obvious ranges, but also give us something to ID as in the grey areas beyond generic Pseudacris. Then when the species are hopefully officially recombined it will be easy to transfer all the complex IDs back into full P. regillas, along with all the sierras and hypochondriacas.

Posted by alexb0000 7 months ago (Flag)

If we have to keep them separate than I think adding a complex is completely fine, however I still think that lumping them back together would be the most in line with current taxonomic understanding of this species.

Posted by phrynosoma20 7 months ago (Flag)

The Amphibians of the World Pseudacris page that @loarie linked above notes that there's a 2021 study that supports the molecular evidence for the split, so it's clearly not the case that there is a current consensus about this. This recent study's citation is here:

Posted by sullivanribbit 7 months ago (Flag)

Apparently that paper has only been cited one time according to google scholar…
Meanwhile you can pull up multitudes of papers with multiple citations that don’t even bother to even acknowledge a split. Most working herpetologists don’t even recognize these taxa.
Ultimately even if this study was to be accepted as valid, how are we to delineate the three species between one another? To date there have been no identifiable features or even full ranges given for any of these supposed species.

Posted by phrynosoma20 7 months ago (Flag)

For this who want to read the research instead of link, here's the newest research.

Posted by birdwhisperer 7 months ago (Flag)

I gave the newest paper a good read through, but there's still things that bother me. There is absolutely nothing proving that any of these "three" species are allopatrically breeding. All we have is 3 distinct unique haplotypes and that does not prove speciation. The researchers claim that the Columbia Basin (where I live) was one of their areas of high interest to test frogs, and we got a measly 5 samples to compare to and the locations as follows: Ellensburg, Moses Lake, Yakima (regilla) and Lewiston and La Grande (sierra). Now as the authors implied, these samples seem to imply that the Columbia Basin is regilla and the Blue Mountains are sierra, which is a nice geographic break and all... unless you're like me who sees a glaring problem. There is no geographic break. It doesn't matter where you are, if there's standing water for breeding, there's going to be treefrog. Pick a water drainage, any, and try to convince that the creek/river in the mountains sierra and those in the very creek/river in the valley is regilla. You're telling me these frogs are not interacting with each other? That is where we need to do DNA sampling, not 50+ miles away from range overlap. Because I'm willing to bet big bucks on the idea that they are likely hybridizing in these overlap zones and probably quite extensively. The only thing genetic sampling will do is prove haplotype swapping. But the lack of allopatric ranges, lack of vocal differentiation (which should be the driving factor for speciation, not genetics), and lack of morphological differences, all say that the Pacific Treefrog is just one species with 3 well-defined subspecies.

Posted by birdwhisperer 6 months ago (Flag)

Here here @birdwhisperer!

I wasn't invited to this, but I came to submit a request for a complex idea and was pleasantly surprised to see this discussion. At the very least, it seems clear that the split was premature. And based on that, I would support iNaturalist returning to the previous status quo (sensu lato) until it is more settled. The complex option would also give a suitable compromise since it would allow us to move past the unsatisfying genus level identifications in the supposed inter-grade zones.

Posted by elsapoguapo about 1 month ago (Flag)

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