In a new study led by Michigan State University, experts report that up to 32 harlequin frog species which were believed to be extinct have been rediscovered in the wild. The researchers say their work provides a “glimmer of hope” against a backdrop of grim narratives around biodiversity, especially for amphibians.
The scientists hope the research project, which involved a combination of literature review and field work, will create a sense of urgency to better protect and conserve these rediscovered species.
“I can’t tell you how special it is to hold something we never thought we’d see again,” said study lead author Kyle Jaynes. “We want people to walk away from this with a glimmer of hope that we can still address the problems of the biodiversity crisis.
“But rediscovery does not equal recovery. This story isn’t over for these frogs, and we’re not where we want to be in terms of conservation and protection. We still have a lot to learn and a lot to do.”
While harlequin frogs that were thought to be extinct have been reappearing over the last two decades, these discoveries were reported as isolated events. As part of the study, new genetic data has been collected that will help inform conservation efforts.
“This study opens up a lot of other questions,” said Professor Sarah Fitzpatrick. “For example, why are these frogs persisting? What we found points to the fact that there probably isn’t a single explanation. And now that we’ve described these frogs, how do we ensure their recovery?”
“We really want people to understand how important our partnerships are. We were invited into this work by our Ecuadorian colleagues. They’ve been working tirelessly on these challenges for decades. There are so many things that they bring to this work that make it possible.”
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