My frog is ALIVE!

February 16, 2012 • 8:56 am

I am quite proud that I have one species of animal named after me: Atelopus coynei, a small “harlequin frog” that was first caught (by me, when I was a student) in the forests of western Ecuador.  It was formally described by my best friend in graduate school, the polymath Ken Miyata (co-author of Tropical Nature), who, tragically, was killed in a fishing accident in 1983.  The story of Ken, how he came to name the frog after me, and other details of these beautiful creatures (I include Ken in that category), are described here, here, and here.

For years Atelopus coynei has been thought to be extinct: it’s a denizen of the wet forests of western Ecuador, which are being lost to human depredation at an alarming rate; and of course frogs worldwide are being decimated by a chytrid fungus.  A. coynei has not, in fact, been seen since 1984.

Until a week ago.

I found out yesterday that it’s STILL ALIVE!  Here’s a short email I received last night.

I would like to inform you about my observation of an individual of “Atelopus coynei” on February 7, 2012 at Chinambi, Carchi, Ecuador. Attached are 2 photographs. The species is listed as Critically Endangered.

Best regards,

Dr. Andreas Kay, Cotacachi, Ecuador

Dr. Kay enclosed two photographs he took of the living frog, which are only the second and third pictures that have been made. It’s far prettier than the pickled type specimen at Harvard’s Museum of Comparative Zoology, which lost its color (click to enlarge to full glory):


Perhaps I’m too steeped in theology, but I sense a metaphor here: like the memory of my erstwhile best pal, the frog is still with us.


32 thoughts on “My frog is ALIVE!

  1. How immensely cool to have this beautiful creature scientifically named in your honor, and that it has been sighted again. I like this kind of news. 🙂

  2. What excellent news!!! Does this live in lower-elevation forests? The lower elevation Atelopus here in Ecuador are mostly free of the frog-killing fungus. The fungus doesn’t thrive at high temperatures. Most of the highland species here now seem to be truly extinct, though occasionally there are surprises.

  3. Groovy post! Because…

    ** it’s a frog beauty ~ though it’s a given that all frogs are beautiful ~ why would any frog aspire to be a prince?

    ** it’s YOUR frog

    ** of your touching remark about the RIP Ken being also in the class of beautiful creatures

    ** of the use of the word denizen ~ ‘denizen’ doesn’t get enough airplay outside of Attenborough & monster movies. For some reason the word has become wrongly solely associated with, mystery, the deep & the dark

  4. We must really work to combat human induced extinction that is having a irreversible and dangerous consequences on evolution of species and contributing to loss of diversity of life.

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