A super rare frog, best known as the “cave squeaker,” has been rediscovered after 54 years. The dark-red frog was seen last December in the Zimbabwe’s Chimanimani Mountains. Scientists had been looking for this species for several years.

The “Arthroleptis troglodytes” or “cave squeaker” is a frog so small that it can rest on two human fingers. It was missing since 1962, when it was seen for the last time high in the Chimanimani Mountains, where it was also rediscovered by a team lead by Robert Hopkins, a research associate at the Natural History Museum in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe.

Arthroleptis troglodytes - Cave Squeaker
Arthroleptis troglodytes/ Cave Squeaker. Image credit: The Associated Press.

“These sorts of things are always good news because there’s so much bad news in the realm of amphibians right now,” said Joe Mendelson, director of research at Zoo Atlanta. I’m just happy to hear some good news from the amphibian world. It doesn’t happen very often.”

The search for lost frogs

Six years ago, scientists around the world, who were concerned about the future of amphibians, began a coordinated search for frogs and salamanders that haven’t been seen in a decade or more. One of the species they were looking for was the “Arthroleptis troglodytes,” a little dark-red frog covered in mucus. It is best known by scientists as the “cave squeaker”.

In 2010, the Conservation International and the IUCN launched the “Search for Lost Frogs”, a six-month search over 19 countries to find the threatened amphibians unseen for at least a decade. At first, the results were disappointing. In 2011, only four out of 100 missing amphibians were located, according to the Conservation international.

According to the 2004 Global Amphibian Assessment at least 1,856 species are considered threatened with extinction, this represents a 32 percent of all the amphibians, which is significant if compared to the 12 percent of birds and the 23 percent of mammals that are currently threatened. Clearly, the exact numbers might have changed since 2004, but according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), the 2004 assessment remains relevant.

The rediscovery of the cave squeaker is a reason to celebrate

There were scientists who felt compelled to continue the search. Amphibian experts gathered together at the 2015 meeting of herpetologists in Cape Town. During this meeting, Dr. Hopkins raised his voice for the cave squeaker.

“It was prioritized as one of the top ten southern African species in need of conservation research … and its rediscovery must be considered as a high priority” said Dr. Hopkins during the 2015 meeting.

He had been looking for the cave squeaker since 1998, and he promised he would find it in 2016, and so he did. He resumed his search in the Zimbabwe’s Chimanimani National Park and on December 22, 2016, he saw the cave squeaker for the first time in 54 years at the summit of the mountains. He said that the rediscovery of this frog is a sign of ongoing progress in this effort.

Source: The Christian Science Monitor