Washington: Herpetologists have rediscovered a single specimen of the Bururi long-fingered frog during an expedition to Burundi. The species was last spotted in 1949 and was feared to be extinct after decades of turmoil in the East African nation.
The frog is about 1.5 inches long, with a black and bluish-gray coloration. The males are notable for one extra-long finger on each foot, analogous to the "ring finger" in humans, whose purpose is unknown. Its closest relatives live in the mountains of Cameroon, more than 1,400 miles away.
California Academy of Sciences curator David Blackburn joined his colleague Eli Greenbaum, professor at the University of Texas, El Paso, on the 2011 expedition with the goal of finding Cardioglossa cyaneospila, as well as other amphibians and reptiles first described 60 years ago.
With little knowledge to go on except a hunch that C. cyaneospila would make a call like its possible close relatives in Cameroon, Blackburn finally found a single specimen on his fifth night in the forest in December 2011, according to a California statement.
"I thought I heard the call and walked toward it, then waited," said Blackburn. "In a tremendous stroke of luck, I casually moved aside some grass and the frog was just sitting there on a log. 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."
Blackburn and Greenbaum also documented dozens of other amphibians in Burundi, many of which had never before been recorded in the country. The team also discovered some species that may be new to science.
First Published: Wednesday, March 28, 2012, 15:22