My frog

April 14, 2010 • 6:25 am

Meet Atelopus coynei, a “harlequin frog” from the Andean rainforests of Ecuador.  And yes, it’s named after me.  I discussed this frog earlier on this website, and told the story of how my late friend Ken Miyata and I found it, but until yesterday I didn’t know of any photos.  Now, thanks to David Blackburn at the Natural History Museum and Biodiversity Institute of the University of Kansas, this lacuna is filled.  My frog is an attractive beast, swirled with bright green and chocolate brown.

Sadly, A. coynei may be no more.  It is on the IUCN’s red list of species, and is listed as “critically endangered.” It hasn’t been seen since 1984 and, given the pace of deforestation in western Ecuador and the spread of the amphibian-killing fungal disease chytridiomycosis, may well be extinct.  That would put me in the sad position of having as my eponymous animal an ex-frog, bereft of life, who has ceased to be.

Fig. 1.  Atelopus coynei, a lovely animal.

21 thoughts on “My frog

  1. That’s a gorgeous frog, Jerry. Like Ray, I prefer to hope it’s still out there, pining for the fjords.

    Atelopus coynei, we hardly knew ye…

  2. I’m glad I caught up on the earlier, autobiographical frog post, which is fascinating.

    What I’m just wondering about now is how one gets a new species officially recognized without any photographic material to back one’s claim up.

    Another thing I’m wondering about, as a non-zoologist: What evidence is required in order for the scientific community to accept that one has found a new species? I assume that cross-breeding experiments are not conducted. And if someone returning from the field has not captured a specimen (which I’m guessing was originally the case if there were no photos), why would anybody believe his claim that he’s found a new species?

    1. No, there apparently were photos, but I couldn’t find any until now. I’m sure Ken took some, and probably took this one. But the species was preserved in alcohol–a specimen is almost always deposited as a “holotype” when a new species is described.

    2. Another thing I’m wondering about, as a non-zoologist: What evidence is required in order for the scientific community to accept that one has found a new species?

      The evidence required, as Jerry rightly notes, is a specimen (preferably more than just one)that another scientist can examine for himself to test the conclusion of the person describing the new species (the re-examination might lead to the conclusion it’s not a new species). As I noted in a previous post, “specimens are what separate zoology from cryptozoology, science from pseudoscience.”

      1. That’s funny, the observation about lacking holotypes for Yetis and other cryptozoological entities precisely occurred to me too after Jerry Coyne had commented above. Thanks to you both for explaining!

        1. Lets hope nobody finds any “holotypes” of any kind anymore., otherwise they will end up drowning in alcohol like the unfortunate last coynesian frog. Rather draconian manner to get your kind in the taxonomies of the tree of life.

  3. Its a nice looking frog, good camouflage pattern. I hope it is still hopping.

    It’s sad that christians refuse to do anything useful, with their ungodly numbers they should at the least be saving habitat for endangered species.

  4. You’re dating yourself.

    Poor frog.

    Now I need to discover a squid, name it after PeeZed and then extinguish it.

      1. I just got back from Norway last night, and I had fjords on the brain already. It’s a beautiful country.

        Jerry got us started with the Python dead parrot quotes.

  5. That’s a gorgeous frog. I hope some conservationists find it and have some luck breeding it.

    Just to add to what G.C. Mayer wrote: in science you need indisputable evidence; a number of samples of a species does the trick. In my own experience I once saw a gorgeous atmospheric effect – a rainbow serape. The rainbow was repeated 4 or 5 times (for a total of 5 or 6 rainbows) with each succeeding rainbow being fainter and smaller and underneath the preceeding one, with no reversal of the colors, and no gaps between bows. I could never find a description of such a rainbow in any book and I don’t have a photograph. Even if I did have a photograph, I doubt scientists would believe unless they saw one for themselves or had a physical model programmed into a computer which could produce such an effect. In short, until your claim can be verified it remains little more than hearsay. In some situations a claim can in fact be proven to be a lie.

    1. A somewhat recent example of the need for verification involves “sprites” which were originally reported by pilots but took one huge effort to verify; enough is now known about them that they can be photographed routinely.

      Another example is that of “ball lightning” (which I had seen once and I know another person who had seen the phenomenon). To some degree similar effects have been demonstrated at much smaller scales on a laboratory bench, but as far as I know it remains a mysterious phenomenon. At any rate, the phenomenon is now recognized as real even though no one knows what’s going on and testimony is still mostly anecdotal. I suspect it’s only a matter of time before someone whips out their mobile phone and records ball lightning in action – or it’s caught on security video.

  6. To me at least, (red / green colorblind) the frog’s colors are quite bright. They look more like warning coloration.
    Given that the area where this frog came from, I don’t think I would have handled it without gloves. The phrase “poison dart frogs” comes to mind.

  7. Jerry
    You need a tee shirt in that pattern; in fact we all do. It’s a beautiful animal and I hope it’s still extant somewhere.

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