THE WORLD’S GREATEST FROG HUNT

by Editor on March 22, 2011

Not Seen Since 1995, The Rio Pescado Stubfoot Toad Had Been Feared Extinct. Photo:Eduardo Toral-Contreras

Late Last Year, Teams Of Scientists Searched The World For One Hundred Endangered Frog Species That May Have Gone Extinct

Five months, 5 continents, 21 countries, 126 researchers, and 100 species of “missing” frogs and other amphibians.

Several conservation organizations recently announced the results of their “Search For Lost Frogs,” a global scientific treasure hunt in which the living “treasure” was comprised of frogs, toads, and salamanders that had not been seen in at least 10 years. According to one of the groups, Conservation International, researchers who participated in the search, which ran from August to December, succeeded in locating 4 amphibians on their list of 100 vanished species. Also found were 11 species that had been left off the list in spite of not having been seen for a long time.

An additional surprise was the discovery of three apparently brand-new amphibian species in Colombia.

However, 96 species of frogs and salamanders remain unaccounted for, and are presumed to have gone extinct. Among the vanished species are the golden toad of Costa Rica, the gastric brooding frog of Australia—so named for it’s habit of carrying its tadpoles in its stomach—and Jackson’s climbing salamander, a Central American species.

Amphibian species the world over are going extinct at an alarming rate. The apparent causes are multiple and complex, including a devastating epidemic caused by the rapid spread of the fatal cytrid fungus, widespread pesticide use and other types of water pollution, global climate change, and loss of habitat. While loss of habitat is the greatest of many problems faced by most threatened creatures of all types, amphibians are especially vulnerable because the ranges of some species are very small—in some cases, comprising no more than a few square kilometers of rainforest, swamp, grassland, or desert. Scientists assume that, because of the rapid rate of deforestation in the world’s rain forests, each year extinction occurs for many species of amphibians that have not yet even been discovered.

The rediscovered species on the scientists’ list were the cave splayfoot salamander of Mexico (Chiropterotriton mosaueri), which had not been since 1941, the Omaniundu reed frog (Hyperolius sankuruensis) of The Democratic Republic of the Congo, not seen since 1979, the Mount Nimba reed frog, (Hyperolius nimbae) of Ivory Coast, last seen in 1967, and the Rio Pescado stubfoot toad, (Atelopus balios), of Ecuador, not seen since 1995.

The 11 rediscoveries of amphibians that were not on the list of 100 missing frogs, toads, and salamanders all occurred in India and Haiti. One exciting Indian find was the Chalazodes bubble-nest frog (Raorchestes chalazodes), which had gone unseen by scientists for 136 years. In Haiti, the Hispaniolan ventriloquial frog (Eleutherodactylus dolomedes) was one of six rediscovered amphbians.

The previously undiscovered species all came from Colombia, and they included a frog and two species of toad, including a “beaked” toad.

Organizations participating in the Search For Lost Frogs included the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, Conservation International, and Global Wildlife Conservation. Conservation International’s report is available to the public.

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