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Pictures: ‘Mr. Burns’ frog discovered in Colombia along with 2 other new species

New species of beaked toad, genus Rhinella, found in the rainforests of Chocó department of Colombia, during the “Search for Lost Frogs”. This individual, around 2cm in length, is thought to skip the tadpole stage, hatching directly into toadlets from eggs laid on the forest floor. The coloration and shape of the head make the toad resemble the dead leaves on which it lives. © Robin Moore/iLCP

Three previously undocumented species of frog have been discovered in Colombia, reports Conservation International.

The new species were discovered during an expedition to search for the Mesopotamia beaked toad, an amphibian which hasn’t been seen in nearly a century. The expedition, which included researchers from Conservation International (CI), the IUCN Amphibian Specialist Group (ASG), Global Wildlife Conservation (GWC) and Fundación ProAves, came under the “Search for Lost Frogs” program, an initiative seeking out species of amphibians thought to be extinct.

Robin Moore, a herpetologist with Conservation International and one of the leaders of the expedition, said that while the team failed to find the Mesopotamia beaked toad, the discoveries were a highlight of the trip, which took scientists to forests ranging from lowland rainforest to cloud forest in the Colombian departments of Chocó and Antioquia.

“After spending several days searching for the Mesopotamia beaked toad with no success, the team’s spirits were pretty low, but finding these new species, including a new beaked toad, was like a shot of adrenaline,” said Moore.

The newly discovered species include a cryptic beaked toad (Rhinella species), which resembles dead leaves and whose offspring skip the tadpole stage to develop directly into toadlets; an unknown toad with bright red eyes; and a new rocket frog (Silverstoneia species), a type of poison dart frog.

New species of rocket frog, from the genus Silverstoneia, found during the “Search for Lost Frogs” in the rainforests of the Chocó department in Colombia. 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. © Robin Moore/iLCP

Moore said the new beaked toad resembles the character C. Montgomery Burns, better known as Mr. Burns, from The Simpsons TV show.

George Meyer, a writer and producer of The Simpsons, agreed.

“The toad’s imperious profile and squinty eyes indeed look like Monty Burns,” he said in a statement.

New species of beaked toad, genus Rhinella, found in the rainforests of Chocó department of Colombia, during the “Search for Lost Frogs”. This individual, around 2cm in length, is thought to skip the tadpole stage, hatching directly into toadlets from eggs laid on the forest floor. The coloration and shape of the head make the toad resemble the dead leaves on which it lives. © Robin Moore/iLCP

The researchers also highlighted the unusual eyes of the unknown toad.

“I have never seen a toad with such vibrant red eyes,” said Moore. “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.”

New toad species with striking red eyes found during the “Search for Lost Frogs” in the cloudforests of Chocó, Colombia. This highly unusual species has scientists baffled – we know nothing about this species other than where it lives. © Robin Moore/iLCP

Colombia’s Chocó has some of the highest levels of biodiversity ever recorded. Conflict in the region over the past 30 years mean that much of its forests have been spared, whereas in neighboring Ecuador most of the Chocó forest has been cut down for agriculture. But relative stability in recent years mean cattle ranches and industrial agriculture is fast expanding in the region, putting its biological bounty at risk.

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