The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) officially declared Israel’s Hula frog extinct in 1996, but now the frog has returned to the Hula Valley, and a team of scientists have made some exciting new discoveries about its genetic heritage.
First discovered in 1946, the Hula Painted Frog was thought to have disappeared when Hula Lake dried up in the 1950s, but the IUCN waited until 1996 to officially declare its extinction.
Scientists feared that they had lost their opportunity to collect genetic analysis, but the reappearance of new individuals has allowed them to conduct extensive research and their findings have been surprising.
A team of Israeli, German and French researchers reported in the journal Nature Communications that the Hula Painted frog is very different than its other painted relatives living in North and West Africa.
“Instead, the Hula frog is related to a genus of fossil frogs, Latonia, which were found over much of Europe dating back to prehistoric periods and has been considered extinct for about a million years,” according to a statement released by the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
This research suggests that the Hula frog is the last remaining representative of an ancient clade or group of frogs with a single common ancestor.
Plans are in place to re-flood the Hula Valley and restore the frog’s habitat, which would go a long way to help new individuals reproduce and increase the existing population.
Absolutely essential to any healthy ecosystem, frogs and other amphibians have suffered enormous population losses in the last couple of decades, so this is particularly good news for Israel’s biodiversity.
Photo via Prof. Sarig Gafny