Three new species of amphibians have been discovered in the rainforests of western Colombia.
The previously unknown frog and two toads reported by the non-profit group Conservation International this week include:
- A beaked toad just two centimetres long, which resembles the dead leaves where it hides. The researchers said it is also unusual in that its eggs likely hatch directly into baby toads, instead of going through a tadpole stage.
- A rocket frog (a type of poison dart frog) that likely grows to a maximum size of three centimetres long.
- A toad with bright red eyes that is three to four centimetres in length and lives at an elevation of 2,000 metres. Its classification among other toad species has not yet been determined.
"Finding three new species in such a short space of time speaks to the incredibly rich biodiversity of these relatively unexplored forests and highlights their importance for conservation," said Robin Moore, an amphibian conservation specialist at Conservation International who co-led the expedition, in a statement.
Moore, along with Don Church of Global Wildlife Conservation and Colombian scientist Alonso Quebedo of Fundación ProAves, led a team of researchers who climbed steep slopes to access chilly cloud forests. They also slogged through steamy lowland rainforests in Colombia's Chocó and Antioquia regions in September while searching for the Mesopotamia beaked toad, a species that hasn't been seen since 1914.
Conservation International launched its Search for Lost Frogs in July, targeting around 100 species of amphibians that haven't been seen in more than a decade, including the Mesopotamia beaked toads.
The researchers were in low spirits after failing to find the Mesopotamia beaked toad, but were buoyed by their new discoveries.
"We definitely left on a high," Moore said.
He described the newly discovered beaked toad as "easily one of the strangest amphibians I have ever seen" and said the other toad's red eyes were "highly unusual for amphibians."
The groups involved in the expedition have now received funding from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to help them hire young researchers to keep searching for amphibians, including the Mesopotamia beaked toad, in the mountains of Colombia.
Meanwhile, the Search for Lost Frogs campaign will continue until the end of the year.