Does Alice (left) ever think about extinction? The supply of crickets must be constantly on her mind, but existential obliteration is probably too heavy to contemplate.
This week, Australian officials confirmed that a species of yellow-spotted bell frogs -- thought to have been extinct for thirty years -- was found in rural Australia. Luke Pearce, a fisheries conservation officer, found one of the frogs in October 2008 while researching an endangered fish. He returned to the spot a year later with a team of experts. They found 100 of the yellow-spotted frogs in the same location. The New South Wales Environment Minister compared the finding to the hypothetical rediscovery of the Tasmanian tiger. Australian scientists have started a breeding program to revive the lost species.
Other frogs aren't so lucky. About 170 frog species have disappeared in the last decade. The continued survival of almost 2,000 species are threatened. This is bad, not just for frogs and frog fans, but for science and medicine. For instance, the Austrailian red-eyed tree frog (Litoria chloris) secretes peptides that block HIV infection of T cells. Poison from an extremely cute-looking Ecuadoran frog called Epibpedobates tricolor has been used to develop new painkillers.
Lan Lan mentioned that there's some kind of fungus that has devastated frogs and other amphibians across the globe. I asked her about current conservation efforts, and I suspect she'll have a full report for us in a few weeks.