'Living fossil' frog thought extinct rediscovered in Israel, last member of its ancient family

Hula Painted Frog
CC BY-SA 3.0 Wikimedia

Hadn't croaked after all

The Hula painted frog, native to the Lake Hula marshes in Israel, was until recently thought to be extinct. In fact, for most of the past 60+ years there were no sightings and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) officially declared it extinct in 1996, making it the first amphibian to earn that tragic label. But there is still hope! In 2011, a Hula painted frog was spotted in Israel. Since then, Sarig Gafny, a river ecologist at Israel's Ruppin Academic Center, and his team have found more of the rare frogs, raising the total number seen to 14. But the resurfacing of a species long thought extinct is not the only thing of note; it turns out that the Hula painted frog is a unique “living fossil,” without close relatives among other living frogs.

The Hula painted frog was catalogued within the Discoglossus group when it was first discovered in the Hula Valley of Israel in the early 1940s. [...]

Based on new genetic analyses of rediscovered individuals and the morphologic analyses of extant and fossil bones, the conclusion is that the Hula frog differs strongly from its other living relatives, the painted frogs from northern and western Africa. Instead, the Hula frog is related to a genus of fossil frogs, Latonia, which were found over much of Europe dating back to prehistoric periods and has been considered extinct for about a million years,

The results imply that the Hula painted frog is not merely another rare species of frog, but is actually the sole representative of an ancient clade of frogs (a group with a single common ancestor). (source)

That genus was thought to have been extinct for thousands of years, so this is quite a discovery. You don't see a "living fossil" every day!

There are plans to reflood parts of the Hula Valley, which would restore the swamp habitat that is best for amphibians like the Hula painted frog. Hopefully that can help it survive and expand it's population to a viable level (it is currently estimated that there are about 200 individuals).


See also: Meet the adorable Fairy Penguin, the smallest penguin species on Earth!

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