10 Extinct or Nearly Extinct Amphibians to Know More About

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 or nearly extinct since the 1800s.

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The Golden Toad

The Golden Toad

Charles H. Smith - U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

Compared to all the other frogs and toads that have gone extinct since the 1980s, 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, fungal infection, or both.

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Sri Lanka Shrub Frog

Tree frog, Polypedates sp., Barnawapara WLS, Chhattisgarh. Family Rhacophoridae, the shrub frogs and Paleotropic tree frogs.
ePhotocorp / Getty Images

If you visit Peter Maas' indispensable website, The Sixth Extinction, you can see how many shrub frogs (genus Pseudophilautus) have recently gone extinct, ranging literally from A (Pseudophilautus adspersus) to Z (Pseudophilautus zimmeri). All of these species were once native to the island country 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, some species of the Sri Lanka shrub frog still persist but remain at imminent risk.

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Harlequin Toad

Harlequin toad
dene398 / Getty Images

Harlequin toads (also known as stubfoot toads) comprise 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 dendrobatidis, 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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Yunnan Lake Newt

Illustrated daigram of the yunnan lake newt
The brightly colored Yunnan Lake newt, like all newts, was carnivorous.

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 wolterstorffi, 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, the newt 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

An Ainsworth's salamander being measures without its tail

 James Lazell / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY 2.0

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 in Cambridge, Massachusetts. 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 evolutionarily advanced than their lung-equipped cousins.

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Indian Caecilian

Caecilian, Uraeotyphlus sp, Uraeotyphlidae, Coorg, Karnataka, India
ePhotocorp / Getty Images

Indian caecilians of the genus Uraeotyphlus are 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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Southern Gastric-Brooding Frog

A southern gastric-brooding frog on a bed of moss
Ground-dwelling southern gastric-brooding frogs were native to Queensland in eastern Australia.

Wikimedia Commons 

Like the golden toad, the southern gastric-brooding frog was discovered in 1972 and the last species in captivity died in 1983. 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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Australian Torrent Frog

Waterfall Frog (Litoria nannotis)
aussiesnakes / Getty Images

Australian torrent frogs, genus Taudactylus, make their 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 (aka the sharp-snouted day frog) 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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Vegas Valley Leopard Frog

The Vegas Valley leopard frog sits on a rock next to a branch

Jim Rorabaugh/USFWS/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY 2.0

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 1940s, 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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Günther's Streamlined Frog

An illustration of Günther's streamlined frog

Anonymous/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

Günther's streamlined frog, a Sri Lankan frog species (Nannophys guentheri of the Dicroglossidae family), 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 Extinct or Nearly Extinct Amphibians to Know More About." ThoughtCo, Apr. 5, 2023, thoughtco.com/recently-extinct-amphibians-1093349. Strauss, Bob. (2023, April 5). 10 Extinct or Nearly Extinct Amphibians to Know More About. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/recently-extinct-amphibians-1093349 Strauss, Bob. "10 Extinct or Nearly Extinct Amphibians to Know More About." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/recently-extinct-amphibians-1093349 (accessed May 29, 2023).