8 New Creatures Join Most Wanted Lost Species List

They include a tap-dancing spider and a bird with a flute-like song.

lost species drawing
Clockwise from bottom left: Dwarf hutia, fat catfish, Fagilde’s trapdoor spider, South Island kokako, Pernambuco holly, big puma fungus, Togo mouse, and blanco blind salamander.

Alexis Rockman / Re:wild

There’s a bird that sounds like it’s playing the flute, a tap-dancing spider, and a very tubby catfish.

These are the newest elusive species that have made their way onto the top 25 most wanted lost species list from Re:wild. These creatures have unverified sightings but enough scientific data to lead researchers to believe that they still exist.

In the five years since the search for lost species was started, researchers have found eight of the top 25 most wanted species lost to science. So they’ve added eight more. The new entries are from 17 countries and were chosen from a list of more than 2,000 lost species.

Re:wild keeps a list of all lost species in partnership with the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Species Survival Commission. The list has more than 2,200 species.

“The top 25 is a representative sample from this wider list which spans geographies and species groups of animals, plants, and fungi,” Barney Long, Re:wild’s senior director of conservation strategies and a Search for Lost Species program lead, tells Treehugger.

“There are some species that are long-shots, and others that we think will be findable with the right effort and skill. The lost species program is about inspiring people to care about the overlooked and forgotten species so we want species on the list that speak to a wide variety of people. The top 25 list are all charismatic in their own right and hopefully as a portfolio there is a species that appeals to everyone.”

Like maybe the dancing spider.

New to the list is the Fagilde’s trapdoor spider from Portugal which has been lost since 1931. The spider builds horizontal traps and tap dances to attract a mate.

“I love the fact that we have some really overlooked species on the list,” says Long. “Having a European spider on the list is really exciting, not just because most people don’t think of conservation when they think of spiders, but also because who would have thought there was a lost spider in Portugal?”

In the waters, there’s the fat catfish from Colombia that has been lost since 1957. It’s the only freshwater catfish on Earth and has rings of fatty tissue wrapped around its body. Researchers describe it as  “the closest a fish could get to the Michelin Man.”

The South Island kōkako is a bird that has been lost in New Zealand since 2007. The bird’s haunting call has been likened to a flute or an organ.

The remaining new additions to the list include:

  • Togo mouse from Togo and Ghana (lost since 1890)
  • Dwarf hutia (guinea pig-like rodent) from Cuba (lost since 1937)
  • Pernambuco holly, a tree from Brazil (lost since 1838)
  • Blanco blind salamander from Hays County, Texas (lost since 1951)
  • Big puma fungus from South America (lost since 1988)

“I’m also really happy we were able to put a fungi on the list this time,” says Long. “There is so little known about fungi in general I hope the inclusion of this species can spark more interest in this fascinating group of species.”  

The Power of Rediscovery

The species on the updated top 25 most wanted list include 10 mammals, four birds, four fish, two amphibians, and one coral, fungus, arachnid, tree, and reptile. They have been lost for an average of nearly 70 years. At 185 years, the Pernambuco holly has been lost the longest, while the South Island kōkako had the most recent confirmed sighting—just 15 years ago.

Since the Search for Lost Species program launched in 2017, researchers have confirmed the rediscovery of these original species on the original list: Jackson’s climbing salamander in Guatemala, Wallace’s giant bee and the velvet pitcher plant in Indonesia, the silver-backed chevrotain in Vietnam, the Somali sengi in Djibouti, the Voeltzkow’s chameleon in Madagascar, the Fernandina giant tortoise in the Galápagos, and the Sierra Leone crab in Sierra Leone.

Long says he wasn’t surprised that so many species from the original list were rediscovered.

“Some of the species on the original list had not been seen for many years, but really needed someone to simply care about them and go look for them,” he says. “This is exactly what this program is about; inspiring people to care about the overlooked species. Many species on the list we know will take a herculean effort to find—efforts to find Miss Waldron’s Red Colobus for example have been on-going for four years for example.”

Rediscovering lost species is the first step toward preventing their extinction, Long says.

“We are in an extinction crisis, but there are an untold number of species out there that we can save from extinction. When a species is put on the list of lost species it acts as a warning that the species is in trouble and efforts to find the species and implement conservation action for it are needed,” he says.

“This program is a call to action for these species, a call to the world to get out there and find these species because they need your help and one person can make a difference.”