From: Jeremy Hance, MONGABAY.COM, More from this Affiliate
Published March 8, 2013 06:38 AM

Starry Frog is NOT Extinct After all!

In 1853 Edward Frederick Kelaart, a physician and naturalist, collected a strange frog on the island of Sri Lanka then a British colony known as Ceylon. The specimen was a large shrub frog (about 2 inches or 5.5 centimeters long) with black-outlined white specks on lime-green skin. He dubbed it "starry" after its pale specks, but that was last anyone heard of it. Even the holotype—the body of the amphibian collected by Kelaart—went missing. Fast forward nearly 160 years—two world wars, Sri Lanka's independence, and a man on the moon—when a recent expedition into Sri Lanka's Peak Wilderness rediscovered a beguiling frog with pinkish specks.

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"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," L.J. Mendis Wickramasinghe told mongabay. Kelaart's starry shrub frog, or Pseudophilautus stellatus, had been re-discovered.

Wickramasinghe, the lead author of the paper announcing the discovery in Zootaxa, says one reason why the starry shrub frog remained undetected for so long was 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," he explains.

In all the scientists identified 78 individuals during their surveys, but given its scarcity and likely small habitat, Wickramasinghe believes the species should be listed as Critically Endangered. The species is currently imperiled by expanding tea plantations, illegal gem mining, pollution from religious pilgrims, and forest dieback.

Photo by: L.J. Mendis Wickramasinghe, via MongaBay.

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