Last seen in 1989, Costa Rica's golden toad (pictured) is perhaps the most famous of the "lost amphibians"—virtually extinct animals that may be eking out an existence in a few scattered hideouts, conservationists say.
The toad—which likely disappeared due to a combination of drought and the deadly chytrid fungus—is one of ten species that scientists most hope to rediscover during an unprecedented global search for "extinct" amphibians launched today. The ten were chosen for their "particular scientific or aesthetic value,” according to project leader Robin Moore, of Conservation International.
(Related: "'Extinct' Frog Found in Honduras, Experts Say.")
Led by Conservation International and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)'s Amphibian Specialist Group, the effort will seek out a hundred such species but invest mostly in ten species of high scientific and aesthetic value.
The new project comes amid a steady decline in worldwide amphibian species, 30 percent of which are threatened with extinction, according to Conservation International. (Read about vanishing amphibians in National Geographic magazine.)
Jason Rohr, a University of South Florida ecologist not involved in the project, applauds its goals.
"But I also discourage
anyone from interpreting any new discovery of these species as previous scientific error or evidence that the particular species, or amphibians in general, have not 'croaked,'" he said by email.
"While a few remaining individuals or isolated populations is certainly better than a complete extinctions, this would unfortunately be a small victory considering the catastrophic, global loss of amphibians."