Calif. researchers find long-lost long-fingered frog

Feared extinct, a team of researchers from the California Academy of Sciences announced last week that they have discovered a single long-fingered frog living in the southwestern forests of Burundi, in East Africa.

The species hasn't been seen or documented since 1949.

The researchers who found it took it home, and it now resides in the academy's herpetology collection.

The researchers say it wasn't the only frog in the vicinity; others could be heard chirping the species' distinctive call.

But David Blackburn, a co-leader of the expedition and biologist at the academy, said the discovery of the frog in December was fortuitous.

"I thought I heard the call and walked toward it, then waited," Blackburn said. "In a tremendous stroke of luck, I casually moved aside some grass, and the frog was just sitting there on a log."

The frog is about 1½ inches long, grayish blue and covered with black splotches.

The researchers knew the frog they found was a male because of its distinctively long and spine-covered fourth toe. It's this toe that gives the frog its name.

Burundi's geological and ecological characteristics make it a fascinating area for biologists. It is bordered by the Congo River Basin, Great Rift Valley and Lake Tanganyika, the world's second-largest freshwater lake. It has been relatively closed off to scientists for years due to civil war and political unrest. It is densely populated, with about 10 million people living in an area the size of Massachusetts.

Blackburn and his team -- which included researchers from the University of Texas at El Paso; the Centre de Recherche en Sciences Naturelles in Lwiro, Democratic Republic of Congo; and the Institut National pour l'Environnement et la Conservation de la Nature of Burundi -- say they documented dozens of other amphibians that had never been identified in the country.

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Story courtesy of our media partners at California Watch (A Project of the Center for Investigative Reporting)

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