This New Frog Species Looks Really Stoned, So Scientists Named It After Led Zeppelin

Researchers are concerned that if not properly protected, the Pristimantis ledzeppelin could be on a stairway to heaven.
June 23, 2021, 1:00pm
Pristimantis ledzeppelin
Photo by David Brito-Zapata via Neotropical Biodiversity

Scientists in South America have discovered a new red-eyed species of terrestrial frog in the Andes Mountains and named it after one of the most famous rock bands of all time: Led Zeppelin.

Researchers found the newly-named Pristimantis ledzeppelin, which in English will be known as Led Zeppelin’s Rain Frog, in a misty mountain area of south-east Ecuador called Cordillera del Cóndor.

In a paper publishing their findings, the scientists David Brito-Zapata and Carolina Reyes-Puig didn't expressly acknowledge the fact that the small red-eyed frog looks like it just blazed some pretty high-quality herb and forgot their Visine. Instead, they wrote that “the name honors Led Zeppelin and their extraordinary music... one of the most influential bands throughout the 1970s, and progenitors of both hard rock and heavy metal.”

Many of Led Zeppelin's biggest hits like Stairway to Heaven and Kashmir have mythical overtones, while others such as Ramble On and Battle of the Evermore directly reference J.R.R. Tolkien's seminal Lord of the Rings fantasy novel. Perhaps the rugged mountain rainforest of the Cordillera del Cóndor inspired the scientists the same way that Tolkien's fanciful Middle-earth roused the renowned British band.

The scientists described discovering the frogs “on shrub vegetation surrounding streams inside mature forest, where they perched on bush leaves” several feet above the water; an area that sounds like it could be the stomping grounds of Elf Queen Galadriel, portrayed by Cate Blanchett in the LOTR films.

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And while Led Zeppelin burst onto a booming scene of 1960s and ’70s rock and roll artists, their namesake rain frog also appeared at an abundantly successful time for its fellow frogs. The Pristimantis genus of frogs now has 569 different species, and 28 of those have been found in Ecuador in just the last two years.

The Pristimantis ledzeppelin isn't the only frog in the genus that rocks, either. 

In 2015 scientists in Ecuador described the Pristimantis mutabilis, and labeled it the "punk rock" rain frog because of its ability to shapeshift back and forth between a smooth textured skin and a protruding spiky spine reminiscent of a mohawk.

Musicians have long inspired names for new discoveries by humans. In the ’80s, each of the Beatles had planets named after them, while in 2001 Mark Knopfler of Dire Straits had a fanged-dinosaur named in his honor. In 2012, Australian scientists named a species of horseflies after Beyoncé.

But the Ecuadorian researchers also explained that the surviving members of Led Zeppelin, their fans, and other amphibian enthusiasts may have reason to be concerned about the well-being of the small frog.

“The Cordillera del Cóndor is part of one of the most threatened ecoregions in the world,” wrote the scientists in their findings, specifically pointing to livestock activities, timber extraction, and mining in the area that could threaten the species. They also explained that the small, nondescript creature could easily be stepped on and killed, and is unlikely to spread beyond its current habitats.

“Therefore it is important to consider new long-term initiatives for small-vertebrate conservation actions,” they wrote.

Or Led Zeppelin's Rain Frogs could be on a stairway to heaven.