Harlequin frog rediscoveries provide insights into species persistence in the face of drastic amphibian declines

Kyle E. Jaynes, Mónica I. Páez-Vacas, David Salazar-Valenzuela, Juan M. Guayasamin, Andrea Terán-Valdez, Fausto R. Siavichay, Sarah W. Fitzpatrick, Luis A. Coloma

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Amphibians face global declines, and it remains unclear the extent to which species have responded, and through what mechanisms, to persist in the face of emerging diseases and climate change. In recent years, the rediscovery of species considered possibly extinct has sparked public and scientific attention. These are hopeful cases in an otherwise bleak story. Yet, we know little about the population status of these rediscovered species, or the biology underlying their persistence. Here, we highlight the iconic Harlequin frogs (Bufonidae: Atelopus) as a system that was devastated by declines but now encompasses between 18 and 32 rediscoveries (25–37 % of possible extinctions) in the last two decades. Geographic distributions of rediscoveries closely match regional described species abundance, and rediscoveries are documented at elevations from 100 m to >3500 m, with no significant differences between mean historical and contemporary elevations. We also provide genomic data on six decimated species, with historical sample comparisons for two of the species and find a pattern of decreasing genetic variation the longer a species had been missing. Further, we document marked decrease in heterozygosity in one species, but not the other, indicating potential idiosyncratic consequences of declines. Finally, we discuss research priorities to guide the potential transition from amphibian declines to recoveries and to maximize conservation efforts.

Original languageEnglish
Article number109784
JournalBiological Conservation
StatePublished - Dec 2022


  • Amphibian declines
  • Conservation
  • Extinction
  • Heterozygosity
  • Historical samples
  • Rediscovery


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