Amphibians Rediscovered After Decades Lost to Science

24 September 2010 | News story

Scientists on a global quest to rediscover "lost" amphibian species have returned from their first set of expeditions having rediscovered three species that had not been seen for decades, Conservation International (CI) and the IUCN Amphibian Specialist Group (ASG) announced on the 22nd September.  

Searches are continuing around the globe for 100 species of amphibians that had been thought to have gone extinct, but that scientists believe may be surviving in small populations. While the discoveries are a cause for celebration as the world prepares for the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) that will be held in Nagoya, Japan next month, they also highlight the shocking decline in the world's amphibian species in recent decades, with more than a third of all amphibians threatened with extinction.

The three animals that have been rediscovered so far include a Mexican salamander not seen since it was discovered in 1941, a frog from the Ivory Coast not seen since 1967 and another frog from Democratic Republic of Congo not seen since 1979.

Dr. Robin Moore, who has organized the Search for the Lost Frogs for CI and the ASG said: "These are fantastic finds and could have important implications for people as well as for amphibians. We don't know whether study of these animals could provide new medicinal compounds – as other amphibians have, and at least one of these animals lives in an area that is important to protect as it provides drinking water to urban areas. But these rediscovered animals are the lucky ones – many other species we have been looking for have probably gone for good."

The rediscovered animals are:

Cave Splayfoot Salamander (Chiropterotriton mosaueri) Hidalgo Province, Mexico. Not seen since the discovery of a single individual in 1941. Pink footed, brown salamander that is believed to live underground in cave systems. Several were found by scientist Sean Rovito from the Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico, in a cave system which is only accessible by abseiling down a large pothole.
 

Mount Nimba Reed Frog (Hyperolius nimbae) Ivory Coast. Last Seen in 1967. Small and well camouflaged brown frog rediscovered by local scientist N'Goran Kouame from the University of Abobo-Adjame.

Omaniundu Reed Frog (Hyperolius sankuruensis) Democratic Republic of Congo. Last seen in 1979. Beautiful frog with bright green – almost fluorescent looking – spots on a dark brown background. Rediscovered by Jos Kielgast from The Natural History Museum of Denmark.

Dr. Moore added: "It's pretty extraordinary to think about just how long it has been since these animals were last seen. The last time that the Mexican Salamander was seen Glen Miller was one of the world's biggest stars, while the Mount Nimba Reed Frog hasn't been seen since the year the Beatles released Sgt Pepper's Lonely Heart Club Band and the Omaniundu Reed Frog disappeared the year that Sony sold its first ever Walkman."

The first phase of the Search for the Lost Frogs campaign will be continuing until the opening of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in Nagoya, Japan in October, with further rediscoveries expected.