Saturday, March 9, 2013

Starry Frog Rediscovered

A large number of animals go extinct each year.  In fact, some estimates put the totals in the tens of thousands.  Even at the low end, it’s a disturbing number.  This being the case, it’s always exciting to hear about the discovery of new species or the re-discovery of species thought lost.

On the island of Sri Lanka (formerly British Ceylon) a strange frog was discovered in 1853.  Physician and naturalist Edward Frederick Kelaart discovered the frog and dubbed it the “starry frog” due to the pattern of specks on its back.  Kelaart took a sample of the animal back to Europe.  Kelaart’s expedition was the last documented account of the frog, at least, until recently.  The large shrub frog has been found again in the wilderness of Sri Lanka after 160 years.

Writing in the paper Zootaxa, L.J. Mendis Wickramasinghe says that the frog remained undetected for a long period because of its habitat.

“We worked in [parts of the Peak Wilderness Sanctuary] where previous studies had never taken place, in tough and rugged conditions, so hardly any researchers had actually gone to these sites.” 
These quite stunning frogs were observed perched on leaves in the canopy. They were slow moving, we collected samples which we thought were new species. But after reviewing past work, [especially] extinct species, it was evident that this was Pseudophilautus stellatus”

The starry frog is about two inches long.  Its skin is lime green with black outlined white specks.
The scientists identified 78 individual frogs during the survey, but the group believes that the species should be listed as critically endangered due to its scarcity and small habitat.  There are numerous threats to this and other species in the area including mining operations, plantations and forest dieback.

“Amongst the most important threats noted in this region, is the forest dieback phenomena, possibly due to pollution and/or climate change, which has never been documented in this region before
With decrease in the canopy cover, alien invasive species, such as Clusia rosea, and Pteribium revolutum, are widely distributed in lower areas and is slowly spreading to higher elevations, which can potentially become a threat in the future.
To know that this species is not gone forever and that we do have a second chance of preserving it is indeed beyond belief!” says Wickramasinghe.

Learn more about conversation efforts for the starry frog and other species at:

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