10 Recently Extinct Amphibians

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Frogs, Toads, Salamanders and Caecilians That Have Gone Extinct in Modern Times


As a group, amphibians are the most endangered animals on the face of the earth, especially susceptible to human depredation, fungal disease, and loss of their natural habitats. On the following slides, you'll discover 10 frogs, toads, salamanders and caecilians that have gone extinct in modern times, some as recently as two or three years ago. (See also 100 Recently Extinct Animals and Why Do Animals Go Extinct?)

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The Golden Toad

golden toad
The Golden Toad (Wikimedia Commons).

Compared to all the other frogs and toads that have gone extinct over the past quarter-century, there's nothing particularly special about the Golden Toad, except for its striking color--and that has been enough to make it the "poster toad" for amphibian extinction. First spotted in a Costa Rican "cloud forest" in 1964, the Golden Toad was seen only intermittently since, and the last documented encounter was in 1989. The Golden Toad is now presumed to be extinct, doomed by climate change and/or fungal infection.

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The Sri Lanka Shrub Frog

sri lanka shrub frog
The Sri Lanka Shrub Frog (Flickr).

If you visit Peter Maas' indispensable website The Sixth Extinction, you can see how many frogs of shrub frogs (genus Philautus) have recently gone extinct, ranging literally from A (Philautus adspersus) to Z (Philautus zimmeri). All of these Philautus species were once native to the island of Sri Lanka, south of India, and all of them were presumably rendered defunct by a combination of urbanization and disease. As with the Harlequin Toad (next slide), some species of the Sri Lanka Shrub Frog still persist, but remain at imminent risk.

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The Harlequin Toad

harlequin toad
The Harlequin Toad (Wikimedia Commons).

Like many of the amphibians on this list, the Harlequin Toad (also known as the Stubfoot Toad) comprises a bewildering array of species, some of which are thriving, some of which are endangered, and some of which are believed to be extinct. These Central and South American toads are especially susceptible to the killer fungus Batrachochytrium, which has been decimating amphibians worldwide, and Harlequin Toads have also had their habitats destroyed by mining, deforestation and encroachment by human civilization

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The Yunnan Lake Newt

yunnan lake newt
The Yunnan Lake Newt (Wikimedia Commons).

Every now and then, naturalists have the opportunity to witness the slow extinction of a single amphibian species. Such was the case with the Yunnan Lake Newt, Cynops wolfferstorfi, which lived along the rim of Kunming Lake in the Chinese province of Yunnan. This inch-long newt didn't stand a chance against the pressures of Chinese urbanization and industrialization; to quote from the IUCN Red List, it recently succumbed to "general pollution, land reclamation, domestic duck farming and the introduction of exotic fish and frog species."

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Ainsworth's Salamander

ainsworth's salamander
Ainsworth's Salamander (Wikimedia Commons).

Not only is Ainsworth's Salamander presumed to be extinct, but this amphibian is known from only two specimens, collected in Mississippi in 1964 and later stored in the Harvard Museum of Comparative Zoology. Since Ainsworth's Salamander lacked lungs, and needed a moist environment in order to absorb oxygen through its skin and mouth, it was especially susceptible to the environmental stresses of human civilization. (Oddly enough, "lungless salamanders" as a whole are more evolutionary advanced than their lung-equipped cousins!)

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The Indian Caecilian

A typical caecilian (Wikimedia Commons).

The Indian Caecilian, genus name Uraeotyphlus, is doubly unfortunate: not only have various species gone extinct, but most people are only dimly aware (if at all) of the existence of caecilians in general. Often confused with worms and snakes, caecilians are limbless amphibians that spend most of their lives underground, making a detailed census--much less an identification of endangered species--a huge challenge. Surviving Indian Caecilians, which may yet meet the fate of their extinct relatives, are restricted to the Western Ghats of the Indian state of Kerala.  

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The Gastric-Brooding Frog

gastric brooding frog
The Gastric-Brooding Frog (Wikimedia Commons).

Like the Golden Toad (see slide #2), the Gastric-Brooding Frog was discovered fairly recently, in 1973--and disappeared off the face of the earth a mere ten years later. This Australian frog was distinguished by its unusual breeding habits: the females swallowed their newly fertilized eggs, and the tadpoles developed in the safety of mom's stomach before climbing out of her esophagus. (In the interim, the female Gastric-Brooding Frog refused to eat, lest her hatchlings be scalded to death by secretions of stomach acid).  

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The Australian Torrent Frog

torrent frog
The Australian Torrent Frog (Wikimedia Commons).

The Australian Torrent Frog, genus Taudactylus, makes its home in the rain forests of eastern Australia--and if you find it difficult to envision an Australian rain forest, you can understand why Taudactylus is in so much trouble. At least two Torrent Frog species, Taudactylus diurnus (aka the Mount Glorious Day Frog) and Taudactylus acutirostris, have gone extinct, and the remaining four are threatened by fungal infection and loss of habitat. Still, when it comes to endangered amphibians, one should never say die: the inch-long Torrent Frog may yet stage a stirring comeback.

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The Vegas Valley Leopard Frog

vegas valley leopard frog
The Vegas Valley Leopard Frog (Wikimedia Commons).

The extinction of the Vegas Valley Leopard Frog has a plot twist worthy of a Vegas-themed TV crime drama. The last known specimens of this amphibian were collected in Nevada in the early 1940's, and the lack of sightings ever since led naturalists to declare it extinct. Then, a miracle occurred: scientists analyzing the DNA of preserved Vegas Valley Leopard Frog specimens determined that the genetic material was identical to that of the still-extant Chiricahua Leopard Frog. Back from the dead, the Vegas Valley Leopard Frog had assumed a new name!

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Nannophrys guentheri

Nannophrys guentheri (Wikimedia Commons).

At least the other amphibians in this slideshow had the good fortune to be given memorable names (the Mount Glorious Day Frog, the Harlequin Toad, etc.) No such luck for poor Nannophrys guentheri, a Sri Lankan frog of the "ranidae" family that has not been seen in the wild since its type specimens were acquired in 1882. As obscure as it is, Nannophrys guentheri is a good stand-in for the thousands of endangered amphibians the world over, which are too dull to be called "golden" but nonetheless are still treasured members of our planet's ecosystem.

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Strauss, Bob. "10 Recently Extinct Amphibians." ThoughtCo, Apr. 20, 2017, thoughtco.com/recently-extinct-amphibians-1093349. Strauss, Bob. (2017, April 20). 10 Recently Extinct Amphibians. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/recently-extinct-amphibians-1093349 Strauss, Bob. "10 Recently Extinct Amphibians." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/recently-extinct-amphibians-1093349 (accessed March 22, 2018).