‘World’s Rarest Toad’ Not Extinct After All

L J Mendis Wickramasinghe, Zootaxa

A toad that pulled a disappearing act back in 1876 has miraculously reappeared in Sri Lanka. The Kandyan dwarf toad was discovered in a Sri Lankan stream in 1872, but almost as soon as the warty little guy turned up in the annals of biology, it was written off as a lost cause. Exhaustive surveys turned up nothing, so scientists figured it had kicked the extinction bucket.

ScienceNow has the story:

But during a 2009 effort at cataloguing the region’s forests, which claim more extinct amphibians than any other nation, scientists trekking through the rugged 22,380-hectare Peak Wilderness Sanctuary one night noticed four unusual toads on rocks in a fast-flowing stream. They recorded characteristics of the toads such as size, shape, feet webbing, and skin texture and collected one of the animals to study further.

The Sri Lankan researchers brought their notes and the single slain toad all the way to the British Museum in London to compare side-by-side with Kandyan dwarf toad specimens collected over 100 years ago. Low and behold, a match! ”The world’s rarest toad” was back on the map.

A second trip to the area yielded discovery of more than 100 of the toads in an area of 200 square meters, the scientists report this month in Zootaxa.

In other words, they struck the toad jackpot. The researchers concluded that the dwarf toad’s similar appearance to another common species in the area was responsible for the now-you-see-me-now-you-don’t mystery that has eluded scientists all these years.

Though changing from nil toads to one hundred toads galore is great news for conservationists, unfortunately the amphibious hero isn’t out of the extinction pot yet: the species will still be listed as endangered due to the (relatively speaking) few animals found and, as usual, increasing human encroachment upon its forest world.

More from Smithsonian.com:

Accepting the Idea of Extinction

Cute Quolls Taught to Dislike Toads

Get the latest stories in your inbox every weekday.