July 15, 2011 • 4:42 am

From Conservation International comes the announcement of the rediscovery of a toad long thought extinct:

The Sambas Stream Toad, or Bornean Rainbow Toad as it’s also called (Ansonia latidisca) was previously known from only three individuals, and was last seen in 1924—the same year Vladimir Lenin died, and Greece declared itself a republic.  Prior to the rediscovery, only illustrations of the mysterious and long-legged toad existed, after collection by European explorers in the 1920s.

Initial searches by Dr. [Indranell] Das and team took place during evenings after dark along the 1,329 m. high rugged ridges of the Gunung Penrissen range of Western Sarawak, a natural boundary between Malaysia’s Sarawak State and Indonesia’s Kalimantan Barat Province. The team’s first expeditions proved fruitless in their first several months, but the team did not give up.  The area had barely been explored in the past century, with no concerted efforts to determine whether the species was still alive. So Das changed his team’s strategy to include higher elevations and they resumed the search.

And then one night, Mr. Pui Yong Min, one of Dr Das’s graduate students found a small toad 2m up a tree.  When he realized it was the long-lost toad, Dr. Das expressed relief and near disbelief at the discovery before his eyes.

The discovery is part of  the Global Search for Lost Amphibians, which is run by Conservation International (CI) and the IUCN Amphibian Specialist Group (ASG), with support from Global Wildlife Conservation (GWC). It sought to document the survival status and whereabouts of threatened species of amphibians which they had hoped were holding on in a few remote places. The search – a first of its kind – took place between August and December 2010 in 21 countries, on five continents, and involved 126 researchers.”

You can see the list of the “top ten wanted amphibians” at National Geographic (two have since been found).  Here are three that I remember when they were not yet extinct (or rare):

A type of gastric brooding frog, the likely extinct Rheobatrachus vitellinus had—or has—a unique mode of reproduction: Females swallowed their eggs, raised tadpoles in their stomachs, and then gave birth to froglets through their mouths (pictured above).

Last seen in 1985, the Australian frog is one of the ten species that conservationists most hope to find during a first ever global search for lost amphibian species.

Last seen in 1989, Costa Rica’s golden toad [Bufo periglenes] 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 “stunning” Jackson’s climbing salamander [Bolitoglossa jacksoni] was said to have disappeared from Guatemala in 1975, conservationists say. (Read how salamanders may soon be “completely gone” in Guatemala.).  Two individuals of the species—considered “data deficient” by IUCN—have been found during recent fieldwork, but more specimens are needed to confirm a viable population, according to Conservation International.

33 thoughts on “Hypnotoad!

  1. The photo of the Australian froglet inside the mouth of its mother is wonderful. Seems the species was on its last frog-legs when I was down under as a young man many moons ago.

    That Jacksoni is (I hope it still is)the cutest of the cute little fellas…

    1. Indeed. I hope I am not the only one shrieking, “Eeee, look at his little FACE!” at that image.

      I suppose salamanders are particularly vulnerable to envirinmental change, becuase of their habits and habitats?

        1. The chemistry of the stomach changes from acidy digestion function and becomes neutral. They do not eat or digest food for the (brief) period required for the eggs to hatch and grow.

      1. Frogs can develop quickly. Maybe it doesn’t eat during the interim?

        What I’d like to know is how it managed to evolve such a strange reproductive strategy.

        1. it didn’t eat while it was brooding, and gastric secretions were suppressed. This was a utilitarian reason for regretting its extinction – a mechanism for turning off the gastric mucosa’s secretory tendency is not known elsewhere among the vertebrates, and this frog may have have provided a model for the treatment of pathological conditions in humans associated with the gastric lining. If it hadn’t died out.

          And then there’s the odd sentimentalist who just regrets that another unique species has apparently bit the dust.

  2. I would love to come out with an intelligent comment about the lovely amphibians in this post, but the Hypnotoad has struck me dumb with its psychadelic beauty, and all I can think is, “Whoa. Dude.”

    1. err, in this case the photo posted is a hypnoFROG,
      ugh will someone post a photo of a cool TOAD titled “hypnotoad” nope, Never gunna happen!

  3. “When he realized it was the long-lost toad, Dr. Das expressed relief and near disbelief at the discovery before his eyes.”

    I probably would have had tears in my eyes, which is among the many reasons why I wouldn’t make a good biologist. Just beautiful.

  4. What gorgeous guys they are! Yesterday I was looking at upholstery fabric for my endangered sofa. Coincidentally, the colors and patterns I was falling in love with apparently were derived from these toads.

  5. What beautiful creatures!! Hard to imagine how anybody still holds out hope for the Golden Toad. It was a spectacular, easily-seen species before the 1980’s, living in a cloud forest reserve that gets hundreds of visitors per day. The other cloud forest ridges nearby also get heavy tourist/scientist visitation. I think this guy is really gone.
    Ecuadorian herpetologists recently rediscovered a lost Atelopus frog here, also very beautiful. But there is a hydroelectric project planned for the main river in its habitat. This river also hosts an endemic genus of liverwort (Myriocolea irrorata), found nowhere else. The local people have so far managed to keep the project from being built, through legal challenges and by chaining themselves to the heavy equipment before it could reach the construction site. But it doesn’t look good for either the frog or the liverwort.

    1. Oops, there is a lost paragraph space before “Ecuadorian herpetologists…”.The “here” of that paragraph means Ecuador, not Costa Rica.

      1. Hi Dominic,
        I don’t think that will help, but thanks very much for asking. Our current president is very sensitive about what he perceives as foreign interference in internal affairs (and he has good historical reasons for this sensitivity). There have been petitions from US biologists, but these seem to have the opposite of the intended effect. I myself have met with the minister of energy about this, and he basically cut me off and half-threatened to deport me, and he pointed out that many of our US rivers have been dammed and many of our own endangered species destroyed.

        Nevertheless we keep fighting. The area is particularly important, declared by WWF as a “Gift to the Earth” site (the only one in continental Ecuador).

  6. Females swallowed their eggs, raised tadpoles in their stomachs, and then gave birth to froglets through their mouths.

    I had no idea. I did not know that. Incredible. I learned something today!

  7. The gastric frog is cool. The whole remarkable reproductive story sounds like something you’d hear from a five-year-old who was confused about where babies come from.

    1. In the world of mules
      There are no rules. – Ogden Nash

      In the world of BIOLOGY, rather
      there are no rules.

      – which helps to explain why rule-bound people, like biblical literalists, have so much trouble with it.

  8. What a beautiful toad!

    I remember seeing the Golden toad at Monteverde (C.R.) in 1972. Sigh.

    That chitrid fungus is devastating.

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