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Long-fingered African frog rediscovered after 62 years

Posted on behalf of Leila Haghighat.

courtesy of Eli Greenbaum.

The Bururi long-fingered frog (Cardioglossa cyaneospila) is an unusually shaped creature — the males have a single finger on their feet that is longer than the others. Since it was last sighted in 1949, the frog was thought to have gone extinct, but herpetologists have managed to rediscover a single specimen in a recent expedition to Burundi.

Much of the country’s wildlife has been threatened by civil wars and human encroachment on habitat. However, the extent of this habitat loss remains largely unknown. Most information about Burundi’s ecological diversity was collected while the nation was still under Belgian rule, which ended in 1962.

David Blackburn, a curator at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco, and his colleague Eli Greenbaum of the University of Texas at El Paso went to this tiny African country to rediscover the amphibians and reptiles first described 60 years ago. The team concluded that habitats have remained more or less intact after identifying populations of new and rare species, including C. cyaneospila.

“In a tremendous stroke of luck, I casually moved aside some grass, and the frog was just sitting there on a log,” said David Blackburn in a press release. “I heard multiple calls over the next few nights, indicating a healthy population of the species, but I was only able to find this one specimen.”

DNA from the long-fingered frog has been sent to the United States for genetic analysis. The results will provide insight into how the frog may have evolved from similar species in the mountains of neighbouring Cameroon and how climate conditions in Africa may have separated the two populations.

The authors expect to have doubled the number of amphibians known to thrive in Burundi and hope these findings make a strong case for initiating local efforts to preserve the country’s remaining habitats.


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