10 Recently Extinct Amphibians

Small frog crawling in front of human face.
Only approximately 200 of these Corroboree frogs exist in the wild. Ian Waldie / Getty Images

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.

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The Golden Toad

A golden toad sitting on a leaf.

 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 on leaf.

 Sachindra Umesh / Flickr

If you visit Peter Maas' indispensable website The Sixth Extinction, you can see how many 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, some species of the Sri Lanka Shrub Frog still persist but remain at imminent risk.

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The Harlequin Toad

A harlequin toad on a rock.

Wikimedia Commons 

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

Illustrated daigram of 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

An ainsworth's salamander being measures without its tail.

 James Lazell / 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 caecilian on a leaf.

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

A gastric brooding frog on a bed of moss.

Wikimedia Commons 

Like the Golden Toad, 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

The Australian Torrent Frog on top of lichen.

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 rainforest, 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

The Vegas Valley Leopard Frog on a rock next to a branch.

 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

An illustration of the nannophrys guentheri frog.

 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.