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MSU researchers find frogs once thought to be extinct

A spotted yellow harlequin frog is observed by a person blue latex gloves. The frog is sitting on a green plant shrub.
Kyle Jaynes
A spotted yellow harlequin frog.

Researchers at Michigan State University have found several species of frogs once thought to be extinct have been rediscovered South America.

MSU evolutionary biologist Kyle Jaynes collaborated with a team in Ecuador and found that up to 32 harlequin frog species believed to have disappeared are still in the wild.

"They kind of walk really slow instead of hop like most frogs, so that they just have really unique features, and they're kind of adorned, similarly to like poison frogs," he said. "They also have toxins in their skin. And so they're charismatic and culturally iconic in their own right."

Jaynes says frog populations were wiped out decades ago by an infectious fungal disease known as pathogenic fungus.

"So they were also one of the most decimated groups to decline when this disease spread through. And so they're kind of the poster child for this narrative of being wiped out and then coming back," he said.

Jaynes says he hopes the study creates a sense of urgency around conserving rediscovered species that are still endangered.

"Some of these species were thought to be extinct before I was even born. So the idea that some of these species that we thought were long, long gone are still around is really exciting," he said. "And we don't get that chance very often."

Researchers are still working on finding out what made the resurgence of the frog species possible.

As WKAR's Bilingual Latinx Stories Reporter, Michelle reports in both English and Spanish on stories affecting Michigan's Latinx community.
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