Concerns Raised about Species' Future as Unprecedented Search for Threatened
Amphibians Finds 15 'Missing' Species — including new Rediscoveries in India
& Ecuador — but Falls Short Locating Many More
— A glimmer of hope, but much cause for concern.
Those are the reactions from teams of scientists from around the world that have
returned from an unprecedented search
species of "lost" amphibians — frogs, salamanders, and caecilians that have not
been seen in a decade or longer, and may now be extinct.
The Search for Lost Frogs, launched in August by Conservation International
(CI) and the IUCN Amphibian Specialist Group (ASG), with
support from Global Wildlife Conservation (GWC), sought
to document the survival status and whereabouts of threatened species of
amphibians which they had hoped were holding on in a few remote places.
However, five months of multiple, targeted expeditions have led to
disappointing findings that conservationists say should sound an urgent wake-up
call for countries, and prompt coordinated efforts to prevent further declines
in the populations of these environmentally sensitive barometer-species. Only
four of 100 missing amphibians that scientists set out to find were located.
Eleven more rediscoveries were unexpected surprises.
The search — a first of its kind — took place between August and December
2010 in 21 countries, on five continents, and involved 126 researchers.
(See list of countries below). It represented a
pioneering effort to coordinate and track such a large number of "lost"
amphibians. The goal was to establish whether populations have survived
increasing pressures such as habitat loss, climate change, and disease, and to
help scientists better understand what is behind the amphibian crisis.
Amphibians are the most threatened group of vertebrates, with over 30 per cent
threatened with extinction due to habitat loss and a fungus that causes
chytridomycosis — an infectious disease — among others.
Out of an initial list of 100 "lost" species, only four amphibians were
rediscovered during the 2010 global search. Three of these were previously
been reported by Conservation International:
One new and exciting rediscovery, however, is the Critically Endangered Rio
Pescado stubfoot toad of Ecuador (Atelopus balios), which was found
this past October. The team of scientists led by the Ecuadorian herpetologist
Santiago Ron spoke with members of the local community, who gave convincing
accounts of recent sightings of the species — it is often the case that local
people know of the existence of species even if scientists do not.
A single healthy adult toad was then found during a night search beside a
river in an area dominated by farms and tropical rainforest. The striking,
spotted toad was the only species identified in the campaign's "top 10" list to
The Rio Pescado stubfoot toad is found only in Ecuador and is restricted to a
very small area — four localities in the Pacific lowlands of southwestern
Ecuador. The land where it was found is unprotected and the future of this
species is uncertain. It is likely that this represents the last population of
the species because it has not turned up in any other known
Stubfoot toads — or harlequin toads as they are sometimes
referred — have been particularly hard hit by amphibian declines and
extinctions, with only a handful of species clinging to survival. Researchers
feared that the chytrid fungus had wiped out the Rio Pescado stubfoot toad,
which was previously last seen in 1995, along with many other closely related
species in Ecuador. Its rediscovery is significant and encouraging, said CI's
amphibian expert Dr. Robin Moore, and should offer Ecuadorians a unique
opportunity to protect this gorgeous and rare species.
Other rediscoveries were made in India, where scientists, who were inspired
by CI's global search, launched their own campaign to focus on rediscovering
local species. The effort resulted in five missing amphibians being
rediscovered, so far, including one that was last seen in 1874 and another which
was found by pure chance in a rubbish bin.
|FOUND: Lost! Amphibians of India
| Dehradun Stream
only from the description of a single individual in 1985. Redisovered this year
after 25 years by a team of graduate students from Delhi University: Sonali G,
Gargi S and Pratyush with Robin Suyesh, Rachunliu G Kamei and SD Biju.
Last seen 1937. Rediscovered
by KV Gururaja, KP Dinesh and SD Biju.
Last seen 1874.
It is thought that the species does not have a free-swimming tadpole stage, but
completes development inside the egg. Rediscovered by Ganesan R, Seshadri KS and
Last seen 1938. Rediscovered by SP Vijayakumar, Anil
Zachariah, David Raju, Sachin Rai and SD Biju.
|Silent Valley Tropical
Last seen in 1980,
this individual was rediscovered in a rubbish bin at a field station in Silent
Valley by Don Church, Robin Moore, Franky Bossuyt, Ines Van Bocxlaer, David
Gower, Mark Wilkinson, Darrel Frost, Wes Sechrest and SD Biju.
|WEBSITE: Lost Amphibians of India
Dr. SD Biju, of the University of Delhi, organized the "Lost!
Amphibians of India" to track approximately 50 missing species, and
described his reaction to the incredible rediscoveries:
"I was so excited to see the Chalazodes Bubble Nest Frog in life after 136
years. I have never seen a frog with such brilliant colors in my 25 years of
research! It has an unusual combination of fluorescent green dorsum, ash blue
thighs and patchy yellow eyes. I feel assured that these rediscoveries will
infuse more enthusiasm in our pursuit of the remaining 45 'lost' amphibians. Our
hunt has just begun and it is a good start."
In Haiti, searches in the country's diminishing forest regions of the
southeast and southwest yielded six surprising rediscoveries of species (previously
reported by CI) that were not on scientists' initial list of 100, but that
had not been seen in two decades – including the Ventriloquial Frog and Mozart's
In Colombia, no species were rediscovered, but three potentially
brand new species to science were documented.
Dr. Moore added, "Rediscoveries provide reason for hope for these species,
but the flip side of the coin is that the vast majority of species that teams
were looking for were not found. This is a reminder that we are in the midst of
what is being called the Sixth Great Extinction with species disappearing at 100
to 1000 times the historic rate — and amphibians are really at the forefront of
this extinction wave. We need to turn these discoveries and rediscoveries into
an opportunity to stem the crisis by focusing on protecting one of the most
vulnerable groups of animals and their critical habitats."
To that point, Dr. Moore noted that his teams did not find the #1 species on
their "top 10" list: the emblematic golden
toad from Costa Rica, which some consider to be the poster child for the
global amphibian extinction crisis. The last specimen, a solitary male, was seen
Dr. Moore said: "I'm not completely surprised that it was not found, but I'm
pretty disappointed. While it does not confirm that the species is extinct, with
every unsuccessful search it does become more likely. It is very sad to lose
unique species such as this — I feel like the world becomes a little bit less
colorful with every one that is lost."
Amphibians provide many important services
to humans such as controlling insects that spread disease and damage crops and
helping to maintain healthy freshwater systems. The chemicals in amphibian skins
have also been important in helping to create new drugs with the potential to
save lives, including a painkiller 200 times more potent than morphine. Not to
mention their incalculable role in human cultures, from classical literature to
fairy tales, and the aesthetic worth of their bright colors and melodic
Even though the "Search for the Lost Frogs" campaign is coming to an end, CI
and ASG will continue their efforts to prevent further extinctions of amphibians
and ensure that their habitats remain intact and continue to provide benefits to
people, thanks to the support from Andrew Sabin and the Sabin Family Foundation,
George Meyer and Maria Semple, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur
Foundation, Save our Species Fund, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Global
"Searching for lost species is among the most important conservation
activities we can do as scientists. If we're going to save them, we first have
to find them," said Dr. Don Church, Global Wildlife Conservation's
Besides the campaign in India, searches for "lost" amphibians will continue
in Colombia and Dr. Moore will spearhead a project over the next three years to
adopt amphibians as an indicator group to monitor climate change impacts on
ecosystem health and incorporate findings into protected area management. The
work — to be implemented with several local partners — will take place in Papua
New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Haiti and Madagascar.
Search for the Lost Frogs" - Campaign Facts & Figures
- From August 2010 to December 2010
- 126 researchers
- 5 Continents
- 21 Countries:
- Costa Rica
- Ivory Coast
- South Africa
The Top 10 "Lost" Amphibian Species
toad (Incilius periglenes) Costa Rica - last seen in 1989
brooding frog (Rheobatrachus vitellinus and R. silus) Australia -
last seen in 1985
Beaked Toad (Rhinella rostrata) Colombia - last seen in 1914
climbing salamander (Bolitoglossa jacksoni) Guatemala - last seen
Painted Frog (Callixalus pictus) Dem. Republic of Congo/Rwanda -
last seen in 1950
Pescado Stubfoot Toad (Atelopus balios) Ecuador -
salamander (Hynobius turkestanicus)
Kyrgyzstan/Tajikistan/Uzbekistan - last seen in 1909
frog (Atelopus sorianoi) Venezuela - last seen in 1990
painted frog (Discoglossus nigriventer) Israel - last seen in 1955
Stream Toad (Ansonia latidisca) Borneo - last seen in the
Global Search Summary - Rediscovered Species From "Top 100"
species were rediscovered from the initial list of 100 (the
first three were announced in September 2010
). Ecuador's Rio Pescado
stubfoot toad (being announced today) is the only among the "top 10" list:
- MEXICO: Cave Splayfoot Salamander (Chiropterotriton mosaueri) –
last seen in 1941
- IVORY COAST: Mount Nimba Reed Frog (Hyperolius nimbae) - last seen
- DEM. REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Omaniundu Reed Frog (Hyperolius
sankuruensis) - last seen in 1979
- ECUADOR: Rio Pescado stubfoot toad (Atelopus balios) Ecuador - last
seen in April 1995.
Additional Surprises & Rediscoveries
India — Five species were rediscovered in India as part of
the "Lost! Amphibians of India" campaign coordinated by the University of Delhi,
Global Wildlife Conservation, Natural History Museum, A V College , ASG and CI.
The campaign is expected to continue through the end of the year. (The five
species rediscoveries are being announced today for the first time). More at: www.lostspeciesindia.org
Chalazodes Bubble-nest Frog (Raorchestes chalazodes) Last seen in 1874!
Rediscovered after 136 years. This striking fluorescent green frog with ash-blue
thighs and black pupils with golden patches (highly unusual traits among
amphibians) frog leads a secretive life, presumably inside reeds during the day.
It is thought that the species does not have a free-swimming tadpole stage, but
completes development inside the egg. Rediscovered by Ganesan R, Seshadri KS and
SD Biju. Listed by the IUCN as Critically Endangered.
Anamalai Dot-frog (Ramanella anamalaiensis) Rediscovered after 73
years. This narrow-mouthed frog is named after the Anamalai Hills in the
southern Western Ghats where it was discovered (and last seen) in 1937 and the
appearance of yellow spots on its upper side and scattered white spots on its
underside. The original specimen was lost and there was no confirmed information
on the species until its rediscovery by SP Vijayakumar, Anil Zachariah, David
Raju, Sachin Rai and SD Biju. The frog calls loudly from marshy areas during the
monsoon season but hides the rest of the year under stones and logs on the
forest floor or in tree holes. Listed by the IUCN as Data Deficient.
Dehradun Stream Frog (Amolops chakrataensis) – only known from the
original description of a single specimen in 1985. Redisovered this year after
25 years by a team of graduate students from Delhi University: Sonali G, Gargi S
and Pratyush with Robin Suyesh, Rachunliu G Kamei and SD Biju. The frog is
characterized by a light green dorsal color with tiny dark spots. The frog
appears to be rare and its habitat requires protection to ensure its survival.
Listed by the IUCN as Data Deficient.
Silent Valley Tropical Frog (Micrixalus thampii) Last seen 30 years
ago and rediscovered in rubbish bin in a field station in Silent Vallery on a
fieldtrip following the launch of the LAI campaign in Delhi. The team further
observed several more individuals adjacent to a streambed under leaf litter, in
closed forest cover within the Kunthi River watershed. Rediscovered by Don
Church, Robin Moore, Franky Bossuyt, Ines Van Bocxlaer, David Gower, Mark
Wilkinson, Darrel Frost, Wes Sechrest and SD Biju. Listed by the IUCN as Data
Elegant Tropical Frog (Micrixalus elegans) Known only from the
original description based on a collection in 1937. The original specimen was
subsequently lost and the species evaded detection until it was rediscovered
after 73 years by KV Gururaja, KP Dinesh and SD Biju in a forest stream-bed at
the original collection area. The frog lives in forest streams and calls from
the edge of rivers where it presumably breeds. The area is a hotspot for
amphibian diversity, containing another 20 species. Currently there is a
hydroelectric project proposal in the area and the site is urgently in need of
protection. Listed by the IUCN as Data Deficient.
Haiti — Six "lost" species surprisingly rediscovered in
Haiti (announced in January 2011). These were not on the initial list of 100,
but were found during the search for another lost species. They had not been
seen in close to two decades.
- Hispaniolan Ventriloquial Frog (Eleutherodactylus dolomedes) – last
seen in 1991
- Mozart's Frog (E. amadeus) – last seen in 1991
- La Hotte Glanded Frog (E. glandulifer) – last seen in 1991
- Macaya Breast-spot frog (E. thorectes) - last seen in 1991
- Hispaniolan Crowned Frog (E. corona) – last seen in 1991
- Macaya Burrowing Frog (E. parapelates) - last seen in 1996
Colombia — Three potentially NEW species were found in
Colombia (announced in November 2010).
- New species of beaked toad – genus Rhinella
- New toad species – genus undetermined
- New species of rocket frog – genus Silverstoneia
Available Content For Media (***Please Provide Image
Photos of the species rediscoveries being announced today (Ecuador and India)
are available for download:
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Video clips of the frog rediscovery in Ecuador and b-roll are available for
Learn more at: www.conservation.org/lostfrogs
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For more information, contact:
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Note to editors:
Conservation International (CI) — Building upon a strong
foundation of science, partnership and field demonstration, CI empowers
societies to responsibly and sustainably care for nature for the well-being of
humanity. With headquarters in Washington, DC, CI works in more than 40
countries on four continents. For more information, visit www.conservation.org
IUCN Amphibian Specialist Group (ASG) — The ASG of the
International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) strives to conserve
biological diversity by stimulating, developing, and executing practical
programs to conserve amphibians and their habitats around the world. This is
achieved by supporting a global web of partners to develop funding, capacity and
technology transfer to achieve shared, strategic amphibian conservation goals.
For more information, visit: www.amphibians.org
Global Wildlife Conservation (GWC) — GWC supports life on
Earth by advancing both academic and applied approaches to conservation
research, action, and education. Along with its strategic worldwide partners,
GWC is pursuing a common goal: to save wildlife species from extinction and
better understand and maintain the natural world and its biological diversity.
For more information, visit: www.globalwildlife.org
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is known for its high standards in teaching and research. The Vice President of
India is the University's Chancellor. DU is a Central University established in
1922 For more information, visit: http://www.du.ac.in The Systematics Lab is a
unit of the Department of Environmental Biology and contributes to conservation
of amphibians through discovery and documentation of species. For more
information, visit: http://www.frogindia.org/