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Thought Extinct For 30 Years, The Starry Night Toad Is Rediscovered

2019-12-18 23:31| 发布者: hujian| 查看: 71| 评论: 0

摘要:   A TOAD THOUGHT extinct for 30 years has again seen the light of day, scientists have announced: Meet the starry night harlequin toad.  At less than five centimetres in>  When scientists first ...

  


A TOAD THOUGHT extinct for 30 years has again seen the light of day, scientists have announced: Meet the starry night harlequin toad.

  At less than five centimetres in>

  When scientists first “saw around 30 black-and-white individuals of this harlequin toad resting on the rocks, their first thought was, Oh god, this looks like the night sky!" says Lina Valencia, Colombia conservation officer for Global Wildlife Conservation, a U.S. nonprofit that was involved in the re-discovery along with the Colombian conservation organisation, Fundación Atelopus. The indigenous Arhuaco community of Sogrome, which shares habitat with the toad, first invited the scientists to research the species and managed its reintroduction to science.

  For several decades, biologists had feared the critically endangered species was lost, yet another casualty of the rapid spread of an amphibian-killing fungus known as chytrid. Unfortunately, scientists have found that chytrid hits harlequin toads especially hard. Of the 96 species of toads in the Atelopus genus, a whopping 80 are thought to be endangered, critically endangered, or extinct in the wild.

  “It's hypothesised that if we don't do anything, [the harlequin toads] will be the first genus of vertebrates to go extinct,” says Valencia.

  Even so, there’s a lot to like about this story, says Cori Richards-Zawacki, an amphibian scientist at the University of Pittsburgh who has done extensive work on harlequin toads but was not involved in the starry night toad research.

  For starters, biologists have “rediscovered” several other harlequin species in recent years, including the Costa Rican variable harlequin toad in 2013, the Azuay stubfoot toad in 2015, and the longnose harlequin frog in 2016.

FollowPhotos13 PHOTOS SHOW WHY FROGS NEED HELPloading...
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  A red-eyed tree frog, Agalychnis callidryas, peers at the camera at the Sunset Zoo in Manhattan, Kansas. The species may have developed its vivid scarlet peepers to shock predators into at least briefly questioning their meal choice.

  PHOTOGRAPH BY JOEL SARTORE, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC PHOTO ARK

  Of course, part of that could be increased efforts to go out looking for the amphibians, says Richards-Zawacki, but there’s also evidence that some populations have survived the chytrid nightmare and are now beginning to rebound.

  “It’s really exciting,” she says. “It’s sort of a little piece in a series of what seems to be the start of some good news for amphibians after this disease.”

‘Their environment is like a temple’

  The story of the starry night harlequin toad’s second act begins with a man named Ruperto Chaparro Villafaña.

  Chaparro Villafaña lives in Sogrome, a community that>

  But the decision to share that news with the world did not come easy—the Sogrome community has a special>gouna.

  “Their environment is like a temple, a sacred place,” says Chaparro Villafaña by way of a WhatsApp message translated by Valencia. “We are in constant dialogue with them, as if they were one of us.”

  The connection is both spiritual and literal. For generations, the Arhuaco people have listened for the toads’ singing as guidance of when to plant crops or perform spiritual ceremonies. They also see the species as an “authority” on environmental conditions—an>

  “If we don't see gouna, that means that we are also disappearing,” says Chaparro Villafaña.

Team effort for the toads

  The community’s spiritual leaders, called mamos, eventually consented to collaboration with the outside world, leading Chaparro Villafaña to send a few photos of the starry night toads to Fundación Atelopus in 2016. But even then, it took four more years of discussions with the Sogrome community before they would allow scientists to come see the toads for themselves.

  And as a test of trust, the scientists had to leave their cameras at home for the first visit.

FollowVideoAmphibians>loading...

  VIDEO BY KATIE GARRETT AND JONATHAN KOLBY

  “When we saw the first starry night harlequin toads, we were so excited and hopeful to see that individuals of this species were alive,” says Jefferson Villalba, co-founder and president of Fundación Atelopus, also through WhatsApp.

  Eventually, as the>

  At the same time, the conservation organisations are working with the Arhuaco people, showing them how to monitor the species by collecting data on things like population dynamics and morphology. The starry night harlequin toad is even being used as the flagship species in a larger, community-based conservation project called Amas la Sierra.

  “Our goal is to integrate the scientific knowledge with the ancestral and cultural knowledge of the Arhuaco community to ensure the conservation of this species,” says Villalba.

Lead Image: The starry night harlequin toad (Atelopus aryescue) is named for the clear, starry skies in its mountain habitat of Colombia.

  PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY FUNDACION ATELOPUS



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