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Frog in Australia goes from ‘extinct’ to very, very endangered

Facing habitat loss, pollution, climate change, and the devastating chytrid fungus, there has been little positive news about amphibians recently. However, a story out of Australia brings a much needed respite from bad news.

In 2008 Luke Pearce, a fisheries conservation officer, stumbled on a frog that had been thought to be extinct for over thirty years. Not recorded since the 1970s, Pearce rediscovered the yellow-spotted bell frog (Litoria castanea) on rural Australian farmland in the Southern Tableland of New South Wales.

Last year Pearce and others returned to the same stream and confirmed a colony of 100 yellow-spotted bell frogs. Some tadpoles were also collected for a breeding program in captivity. Although the species is back from extinction, it is still gravely threatened since there are so few individuals and all are known from only one location.

The yellow-spotted bell frog’s population collapsed due to the chytrid fungus. Although researchers are not certain why this population survived, they speculate that these individuals could have a genetic resistance to the fungus.

“Scientists were convinced the Yellow-spotted Bell Frog had become extinct, following the tragic path of seven other Australian frog species,” said Frank Sartor, the Minister of the Environment and Climate Change, in a press release. “I’m advised that finding this frog is as significant as discovering a Tasmanian tiger. This discovery is a reminder of the need to protect the environment so future generations can enjoy the noise and color of our native animals.”

The announcement wasn’t made until conservation measures could be put in place to protect the remaining population of the yellow-spotted bell frog. In addition, the location of the frogs is being kept a closely-guarded secret for their protection.

The yellow-spotted bell frog is known locally as the ‘motorbike’ frog due to its unique call.

One third of the world’s amphibians are in danger of extinction according to the IUCN Red List. Approximately 170 species have gone extinct since 1980, but as the yellow-spotted bell frog sometimes a species can come back from the dead.

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