A study led by researchers of the Universities of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem (Israel) and Braunschweig (Germany) revealed that the rediscovered frog is a true living fossil, without close relatives among other living frogs.
The rediscovered Hula painted frog, Latonia nigriventer.
Photo: Frank Glaw, free for publication
A unique character of the Hula painted frog is its black venter with white spots.
Photo: Frank Glaw, free for publication
(Nature Communications, 04 June, 2013, doi 10.1038/ncomms2959)In 1996, an international commission evaluated the status of the Hula Painted Frog (Latonia nigriventer), an amphibian from northern Israel. The situation seems to be obvious: The habitat of the species is almost completely destroyed by intensified agriculture, and since 1955 no living individual has been observed. The species is thus declared as extinct, the first such case among amphibians worldwide.
But in some cases hope might still be justified. A team of Israeli, German and French researchers now report in the prestigous scientific journal Nature Communications on the rediscovery of the Hula Frog. After intensive nature conservation efforts in its original habitat - near the borders to Syria and Lebanon -several specimens have now again been observed in the wild.
"It is incredible that this amphibian species has survived in this intensively monitored area, without an observation for over 60 years. Maybe this emblematic frog can even become again trendsetter, and more amphibians may prove to have survived in some remote areas although we consider them as extinct" states Professor Sarig Gafny, a freshwater biologist of the Ruppin University in Israel who coordinated the field work on the rediscovered frog.
Now for the first time an in-depth scientific analysis of this enigmatic amphibian became possible - and yielded the next surprise: the Hula Frog differs strongly from its living relatives, the painted frogs from northern Africa and western Africa. Instead the Hula Frogs is related to a genus of fossil giant frogs, Latonia, which were found over much of Europe during the past 10 million years.
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