Research highlight

Zoology: A living fossil comes ‘back from the dead’

Nature Communications

June 5, 2013

The first amphibian to have been officially declared extinct is found not to be extinct, in research published in Nature Communications this week. The team provide evidence that not only has the Hula painted frog survived undetected in its type locality for almost 60 years, but the species also represents a living fossil.

The Hula painted frog was catalogued within the Discoglossus group when it was first discovered in the Hula Valley, Israel in the early 1940's. After being officially declared extinct in 1996, the opportunity to discover about this species’ history, biology and ecology was thought to have disappeared. Sarig Gafny and collaborators now report a living natural population of this species in the same location in Israel where it was first found. Based on new genetic and morphologic analyses on these rediscovered individuals, the species has been reclassified to belong to the Latonia group. This group was thought to have been extinct since the Pleistocene, and its demise was thought to be caused by continental glaciations.

34 amphibian species have been declared extinct since 2004. The survival of this species represents a striking example of resilience to severe habitat degradation during the past century.

doi: 10.1038/ncomms2959

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