Worldwide search for 'lost frogs' ends with 4% success, but some surprises

Jeremy Hance
mongabay.com
February 16, 2011



Unprecedented search evidence of 'Sixth Great Extinction'.

Last August, a group of conservation agencies launched the Search for Lost Frogs, which employed 126 researchers to scour 21 countries for 100 amphibian species, some of which have not been seen for decades. After five months, expeditions found 4 amphibians out of the 100 targets, highlighting the likelihood that most of the remaining species are in fact extinct; however the global expedition also uncovered some happy surprises. Amphibians have been devastated over the last few decades; highly sensitive to environmental impacts, species have been hard hit by deforestation, habitat loss, pollution, agricultural chemicals, overexploitation for food, climate change, and a devastating fungal disease, chytridiomycosis. Researchers say that in the past 30 years, its likely 120 amphibians have been lost forever.

The Search for Lost Frogs conducted by Conservation International (CI), the IUCN Amphibian Specialist Group (ASG), and Global Wildlife Conservation (GWC), hoped to find species whose status remained unknown. The unprecedented search did uncover surviving populations of the Cave Splayfoot Salamander (Chiropterotriton mosaueri) of Mexico (not seen since 1941), the Mount Nimba Reed Frog (Hyperolius nimbae) of Ivory Coast (last seen in 1967), and the Omaniundu Reed Frog (Hyperolius sankuruensis) of Democratic Republic of Congo (not seen since 1979). In addition the search announced today that it also rediscovered the Rio Pescado stubfoot toad of Ecuador (to read more about this discovery: Researchers rediscover one of the world's most sought-after lost frogs). This find was especially gratifying as the toad was the only rediscovered amphibian on the Search's Top Ten List (ranked number six). After being tipped off by a local community, the researchers found a single adult toad.

 The rediscovered Rio Pescado Stubfoot Toad (<i>Atelopus balios</i>) was number 6 in the 100 Lost Frogs. Uncovered after 15 years in Ecuador by Eduardo Toral-Contreras and Elicio Tapia. Researchers feared that the deadly amphibian chytridmycosis had wiped out this species along with many other closely related species in Ecuador. Photo: © Eduardo Toral-Contreras .
The rediscovered Rio Pescado Stubfoot Toad (Atelopus balios) was number 6 in the 100 Lost Frogs. Uncovered after 15 years in Ecuador by Eduardo Toral-Contreras and Elicio Tapia. Researchers feared that the deadly amphibian chytridiomycosis had wiped out this species along with many other closely related species in Ecuador. Photo: © Eduardo Toral-Contreras.
"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," says CI's amphibian expert Dr. Robin Moore, who helped organize the search. "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.”

But even if the search didn't rediscover as many amphibians as it hoped, the numerous expeditions—and even a copycat expedition—did uncover some intriguing surprises.

In Haiti six amphibians were rediscovered. These were not on the Search for Lost Frogs's 100 List, but the species had not been seen since the early 1990s. While no amphibians were re-discovered in Colombia, three species were found that are likely new to science.

While Search for Lost Frogs expeditions in India came up empty-handed. That didn't stop Indian researchers from making news. Inspired by the Search for Lost Frogs, Dr. SD Biju from the University of Delhi, organized the "Lost! Amphibians of India", which sent out expeditions to search for 50 missing amphibians in India. They rediscovered five amphibians, including one that hadn't been seen since India was a British colony and Mahatma Gandhi was a child of five (1874).

"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," Biju said in a press release.

Aside from India's ongoing efforts, searches are also scheduled to continue in Colombia.

"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 President.

For the 96 target amphibians that weren't rediscovered, hope remains that a few may be found in the future. But for many, it is probably too late. Of course, in the coming decades many more amphibians will be lost if efforts aren't made to save them. Over 30 percent of the world's amphibians are currently threatened with extinction.



 The Chalazodes Bubble-nest Frog (<i>Raorchestes chalazodes</i>)was 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. Photo: © SD Biju.
The Chalazodes Bubble-nest Frog (Raorchestes chalazodes)was 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. Photo: © SD Biju.















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CITATION:
Jeremy Hance
mongabay.com (February 16, 2011).

Worldwide search for 'lost frogs' ends with 4% success, but some surprises.

http://news.mongabay.com/2011/0215-hance_lostfrogs.html