Thursday, February 15, 2007

Extinction of the Palestinian or Hula Painted Frog (Discoglossus nigriventer)

The Palestinian painted frog, Israel painted frog or Hula PaintedFrog (Discoglossus nigriventer, Mendelssohn and Steinitz 1943) is anextinct amphibian, whose range was limited to the Lake Hula (Huleh)marshes and swamps in northern Palestine, just north of the Sea ofGalilee (Tiberius Lake), and possible in adjacent parts of Syria andLebanon. Due to drainage of the marshes by Israel in the 1950's,this rare species disappeared. It was classified as extinct in 1996,but continues to be listed as an endangered species in Palestine onthe slim hope that a relict population may be found in the GolanHeights. Almost nothing is known about its life history, because itwas only found by scientists from two localities on the easternshores of the Hula wetlands (Lake Hula): once, four specimens werecollected in 1940 by the zoologist Prof. Heinrich Mendelssohn, ofwhich one still exists (type specimen); and a single adult specimenwas collected by the biologist Dr. Heinz Steinitz in 1955. This wasthe last record of this species. The two tadpole paratypes have beenlost.The wetlands where the Palestinian painted frog relied on weredrained for mainly agricultural purposes in the 1950's like makingthe land suitable for agriculture, but also in an attempt toeradicate malaria. Of the original 60 km² of wetlands, only an areaof 3.20 km² has remained; although this remaining area was set asideas a nature reserve in 1964, this could not prevent the extinctionof certain endemic species, including the Palestinian Painted Frog.This species has not been reported since 1955, when Dr. HeinzSteinitz collected it.Very little is known about this two-inch-long (5 cm) frog that waslast recorded in 1955. Its back was a colourful combination of ochre(yellow-brown), rust, gray, and black. Small white spots dappled itsdark belly. It lived in northern Palestine and possibly adjacentparts of Syria and Lebanon. Herpetologists believe that it wentextinct because so much of its wetland habitat was drained in aneffort to produce farmland for a growing population.

No comments: