Long thought to be extinct, the Mount Nimba reed frog (Hyperolius nimbae) has been found in the swamps of West Africa's Côte d'Ivoire, conservationists announced yesterday. The frog is among the first three "lost" species rediscovered during an unprecedented global search for "extinct" amphibians launched August 10.
Missing for more than 40 years, the 1.3-inch-long (3.3-centimeter-long) frog species was rediscovered in a swampy field near the Liberia border.
The new project—led by Conservation International and the International Union for Conservation of Nature's Amphibian Specialist Group—will seek out a hundred allegedly extinct species but will focus mainly on ten species of high scientific and aesthetic value. (See pictures of the ten most wanted "extinct" amphibians.)
The effort comes amid a steady decline in worldwide amphibian species, in part due to freshwater habitat loss, and the usually fatal chytrid fungus. Nearly 30 percent of known amphibian species are threatened with extinction, according to Conservation International. (Read about vanishing amphibians in National Geographic magazine.)
Photograph courtesy Ngoran Germain Kouame via Conservation International
After keeping scientists in the dark for decades, the supposedly extinct Omaniundu reed frog (Hyperolius sankuruensis) recently revealed itself again with a nighttime call, conservationists say.
The new hunt for missing amphibians such as H. sankuruensis should be applauded, Jason Rohr, a University of South Florida ecologist not involved in the project, told National Geographic News in August.
"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 extinction, this would unfortunately be a small victory considering the catastrophic, global loss of amphibians."
Photograph courtesy Jos Kielgast via Conservation International
Biologist Sean Rovito recently found the lost cave splayfoot salamander (Chiropterotriton mosaueri) species hiding out underground in Durango, Mexico (see map)—the first documented sighting since 1941, when the species was first recorded and last seen.
Rovito, of the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, was surprised to see the "extinct" salamander atop a rock on the cave floor.
"I felt tremendously lucky not only to have found these magnificent salamanders but also to know that both of these species persist in the wild after so many years," Rovito said in a statement.
In addition to the spread of the chytrid fungus, the loss of freshwater habitats due to agricultural and urban development has led to a rapid decline in amphibian populations, according to the conservation group.
C. mosaueri was found in a cave that also houses a drinking water source for a local village. According to Conservation International, the cave may be drying out due to deforestation—which diminishes the land's ability to absorb and hold water and can make conditions less hospitable for amphibians.