Arlington, VA – A team of scientists on a quest to
rediscover several "lost" amphibians in western Colombia has returned with a
surprising result: three species of frogs believed to be entirely new to
science, Conservation International (CI), the IUCN Amphibian Specialist Group
(ASG), Global Wildlife Conservation (GWC) and Fundación ProAves announced
Among the discoveries are a mysterious toad with ruby-colored eyes, a
diminutive long-nosed beaked toad which hides in dead leaves, and a gorgeous new
rocket frog with flashes of red on its legs. All three species were found during
the day when they were most active, a behavior which scientists say is unusual
among most amphibians.
EDITORS: Download photos of the new amphibians available
for media use.
The scientific expedition, led by CI's Amphibian Conservation Specialist Dr.
Robin Moore, Dr. Don Church of GWC, and Colombian scientist Alonso Quevedo of
Fundación ProAves, took place this past September in Colombia to search for the
long lost Mesopotamia beaked toad, which hasn't been seen since the outbreak of
World War I, and is described as Critically Endangered by the IUCN Red List of
Despite a week of intensive field study scouring habitats from chilly cloud
forests to steamy lowland rainforests in Colombia's Chocó and Antioquia
departments, the lost species eluded the team.
"After spending several days searching for the Mesopotamia beaked toad with
no success, the team's spirits were pretty low" said Moore, who has organized
the Search for Lost Frogs for CI and the ASG, "but finding these new species,
including a new beaked toad, was like a shot of adrenaline. We definitely left
on a high."
Dr. Moore added, "Finding three new species in such a short space of time
speaks to the incredibly rich biodiversity of these relatively unexplored
forests and highlights their importance for conservation. Protecting these
habitats into the future will be essential to ensure the survival of both the
amphibians and the benefits that they bring to ecosystems and people."
The newly discovered amphibians are (see editors' notes for a link to
New species of beaked toad – genus Rhinella, found in the
rainforests of Chocó department of Colombia, during the "Search for Lost Frogs".
In addition to its strange appearance, the beaked toad is rather unusual in that
it probably skips the tadpole stage, laying eggs on the forest floor that hatch
directly into toadlets. The coloration and shape of the head make the toad
resemble the dead leaves on which it lives, and the only two individuals found
were no larger than 2cm in length.
New toad species – genus undetermined; found on the forest
floor, this toad is about 3-4cm in length, with striking bright red eyes. This
highly unusual species has scientists baffled – they know nothing about this
species other than where it lives, which is around 2,000m elevation in the Chocó
montane rainforest. Scientists trekked up very steep slopes to reach the habitat
where they found the new toad.
New species of rocket frog – genus Silverstoneia; a type of
poison dart frog - a group that has given rise to many chemicals found to be
useful to humans - this species is less poisonous than its brightly colored
relatives. Living in and around streams, the rocket frogs carefully carry newly
hatched tadpoles on their backs to deposit them in water to complete their
development. This is a small species, which probably does not grow larger than
3cm in total length.
In describing the new mystery toad, Dr. Moore said, "I have never seen a toad
with such vibrant red eyes. This trait is highly unusual for amphibians, and its
discovery offers us a terrific opportunity to learn more about how and why it
adapted this way."
"As for the new beaked toad, it is easily one of the strangest amphibians I
have ever seen. Its long pointy snout-liked nose reminds me of the nefarious
villain, Mr. Burns, from The Simpsons television series."
After seeing pictures of the new species, Simpsons series long time
writer/producer and amphibian enthusiast, George Meyer said of the resemblance,
"The toad's imperious profile and squinty eyes indeed look like Monty Burns."
Meyer is an active member of Conservation International's Chairman's
The unprecedented search, which is taking place in 19 countries on five
continents, has led to three species rediscoveries in the past few months,
including: 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.
It marks the first ever coordinated effort to find such a large number of
"lost" creatures and comes as global amphibian populations are suffering a
shocking decline - with more than 30 per cent of all species threatened with
extinction. Many of the amphibians that the teams of scientists have been
looking for have not been seen in several decades, and establishing whether
populations have survived or not is vital for scientists looking to understand
the recent amphibian extinction crisis.
Driving the search is the important role that amphibians play in healthy
ecosystems and the services they provide to people, such as controlling insects
that spread disease and damage crops, helping to maintain healthy freshwater
systems, and fueling the development of new drugs with the potential to save
"They are like a vital organ pumping life into these forests", Moore said,
"ensuring clean fresh water for local communities, in addition to holding untold
potential medicinal properties. For example, the rocket frog belongs to the same
family as poison dart frogs, well known for their skin secretions: a substance
isolated from the skin of the phantasmal poison frog of Ecuador produces a
painkiller 200 times more potent than morphine."
The first phase of the Search for the Lost Frogs campaign will continue
through the end of 2010, with further rediscoveries expected this year. The
search for the Mesopotamia beaked toad also continues. Thanks to support from
the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the four organizations involved in the
Colombian search have hired a team of young researchers to explore the mountains
of Colombia in search of this and other lost species.
To follow the search for the lost amphibians please visit: www.conservation.org/lostfrogs
Notes for Editors:
PHOTOS: Download images of these amphibians available
for media use*
(*Please note that photo credits are mandatory, and
images may only be used in conjunction with news about organizers' new amphibian
discoveries in Colombia.)
Conservation International (CI) – Building upon a strong
foundation of science, partnership and field demonstration, CI empowers
societies to responsibly and sustainably care for nature, our global
biodiversity for the well-being of humanity. With headquarters in Washington,
DC, CI works in more than 40 countries on four continents. For more information,
IUCN Amphibian Specialist Group (ASG) – The ASG 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
Global Wildlife Conservation (GWC) – GWC improves life on
Earth by advancing both academic and applied approaches to conservation
research, action, and education. Along with its numerous strategic worldwide
partners, GWC is pursuing a common goal: to save plants and animals from
extinction and better understand and maintain the natural world and its
Fundación ProAves – ProAves is a Colombian NGO dedicated to
the conservation of birds and their habitats through research, outreach and
direct conservation actions in collaboration with local communities.