Scientists found three new toad species in different parts of Nevada. However, scientists and conservationists are already asking for protection of these species since they are facing extinction.

It is an incredible finding because the last time scientists found a new toad species in the U.S. was more than 50 years ago. One of the new specimens, the Dixie Valley toad, was discovered at the beginning of the 21st century, but it wasn’t identified as a new species until 2014. Now, it is almost extinct.

The Dixie Valley toad. Image Credit: University of Nevada
The Dixie Valley toad. Image Credit: University of Nevada, Reno

The three new toads that are the Dixie Valley toad, the Railroad Valley toad, and the Hot Creek toad. None of them are connected geographically

It is exceedingly rare to discover new amphibians

Scientists from the University of Nevada, Reno, found three new toad species in Nevada’s Great Basin along the 190,000 square miles of the ancient lake’s bottom. It’s been ten years since they started the survey that area using 30 “shape” metrics and DNA studies to analyze the characteristics of the toads and to distinguish them from other related species. According to the researchers, finding new amphibians is something exceptional. In the United States, only three new frog species were found since 1985. Finding toads is even odder. The last toad species found was the Wyoming toad in 1968. It was located in the North of Mexico, but now it is extinct.

“We’ve found the toads in small, wet habitats surrounded by high-desert completely cut off from other populations,” Dick Tracy, a renowned biology professor at the University of Nevada, Reno, and lead scientist on the project, said. “These are absolutely new, true species that have been separated from other populations for 650,000 years.”

These newly found toads are really small, and each one of them has unusual features that differentiate them from any other toad in the western region.

For example, the Dixie Valley toad is just two inches long. Its color is a combination of black, green and brown and its skin is bumpy. The Dixie Valley toad lives in a 2-square miles marsh in the Dixie Valley about 100 miles east of Reno. This area is isolated, and it is surrounded by a very arid region where water is scarce. The Dixie Valley is the hottest system in the Basin.

“The Dixie Valley toad is a pretty toad, with flecks of gold on an olive background,” said Tracy. “It’s not like the big, common green toads you might find in other marshes around the west or even in Rancho San Rafael Park in Reno.”

All of these toads are quite isolated and have a small population if compared to other western toads. The Railroad Valley toad was found in the Tonopah Basin in the Nevada desert, and the Hot Creek Toad is about 35 miles away, in the isolated Hot Creek Mountain Range.

According to Tracy, their goal is to understand the relationship between the different toad populations in the Nevada’s Great Basin.

Humans are threatening the Dixie Valley Toad

All of these new toads are about to go extinct. That is why conservationists urged the authorities protect these amphibians, especially the Dixie Valley toad because human action is threatening its habitat. The place where this toad lives is the future site of a geothermal power plant. This could dry up the small marsh where the Dixie Valley Toads live, ending their existence.

Michelle Gordon and Dick Tracy from the University of Nevada. Image Credit: University of Nevada
Michelle Gordon and Dick Tracy from the University of Nevada. Image Credit: University of Nevada

The power plant construction is on hold while the Bureau of Land Management evaluates the impacts it would have on the toads’ survival. The Bureau of Land Management is receiving letters requesting them not to allow the construction of the geothermal plant after the discovery of the new toad species. 1,000 of these letters come from the Center for Biological Diversity, a national environmental group based in Tucson, Arizona.

“If this power plant goes in and the habitat is dried up, this recently discovered species could go extinct,” Tracy said. “It’s a good candidate for an Endangered Species Act listing. The ESA was passed under Richard Nixon in 1973, and the second species listed under the new Act was the Houston Toad. This is a tough conflict between commerce and biological resources, and we need to seek compromises so if the project proceeds, it won’t hurt the toads.”

Researchers described the Dixie Valley toad as a very fragile species. It has the smallest body size among the toads that live in the region. Their population is minimal – although they don’t have the accurate numbers – and that makes them even more vulnerable to the changes in the environment. Tracy said that if water disappears in the area so will the toads.

Source: Building a Better World News