Tuesday, June 4, 2013

The rediscovery of the Hula painted frog

Latonia (formerly Discoglossus) nigriventer (Credit: Sarig Gafny)
The Hula painted frog was considered a member of the Discoglossus genus when it was first discovered in the Hula Valley of Israel in the early 1940s. The frog was thought to have disappeared following a drying up of the Hula Lake at the end of the 1950s, and was declared extinct by the IUCN in 1996. The dry up was part of a plan to transform the area into agricultural land and to combat malaria by eliminating the habitat of the disease-bearing mosquitoes. The sad consequence - the Hula painted frog was the first ever amphibian to have been declared extinct. The opportunity to discover more about this species' history, biology and ecology was thought to have disappeared.

Hula valley
But in November 2011 a routine patrol discovered an animal that was identified as Hula painted frog. Since then 10 more individuals were discovered. This was revealed in a study that was published today. But there is more the researchers were able to find out.

Based on new genetic analyses of rediscovered individuals and the morphologic analyses of extant and fossil bones, the team of Israeli, German and French researchers discovered that the Hula frog differs strongly from its other living relatives, the painted frogs from northern and western Africa. Instead, the Hula frog is related to a genus of fossil frogs, Latonia, known only as fossils from Oligocene to Pleistocene in Europe and therefore considered extinct for about a million years.

These results imply that Latonia nigriventer is not merely another rare species of frog, but rather the sole representative of an ancient clade of frogs
There are plans in place to reflood parts of the Hula Valley and thereby restore the original swamp habitat, which may help to build a secure future for the rediscovered species. Actually partial reflooding already begun 1994. Maybe one reason why the remarkably resilient species showed up again. Either way good news for a change.

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