Researchers on an expedition were surprised to stumble upon two amphibians that were thought to be long gone. The Palawan toadlet (Pelophryne albotaeniata) and the Malatgan River caecilian (Ichythyophis weberi) were found in the island province of Palawan in the Philippines. Researchers were on a biodiversity survey that was launched in December 2014, part of a larger project to create a new reserve called Cleopatra’s Needle Protected Area.
In a feature for National Geographic, Jason Bittel notes that it’s been 50 years since anyone has spotted the Malatgan River caecilian and 40 years since the Palawan toadlet was last seen. Evolutionary biologist Rafe Brown, from the University of Kansas, told Bittel that the discovery was “basically a coincidence” as a student “happened to be walking by it and thought it was a worm. But lo and behold, it was a Malatgan River caecilian."
Researchers are working with a range of partners, including the Centre for Sustainability and the last members of the Batak tribe, to protect what they describe as the “last frontier for conservation in the Philippines.” They hope that the Cleopatra’s Needle Protected Area will help to protect 40,000 hectares of forest that are home to a number of different species. Bittel points out that the island is “relatively underdeveloped” compared with other forests in the Philippines, which could possibly lead to more surprise discoveries.
“I never imagined that the Palawan toadlet would be found again within the area we were working to protect,” said Robin Moore, conservation officer for the Global Wildlife Conservation and the Amphibian Survival Alliance, in a statement.
“Finding lost species is always exciting, but to rediscover two lost species in forest that we are working to have protected is just incredible, and validates the need for projects such as this to prevent the extinction of such elusive species,” he added.
[H/T National Geographic]