Biologists have rediscovered the “starry night” harlequin toad in Colombia for the first time in nearly three decades after the species was largely wiped out by a deadly fungal pathogen.
Biological anthropologists say they hadn’t seen this black toad adorned with white spots that gave the amphibian its name since 1991. However, folks in the indigenous Arhuaco tribe that resides by Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta regularly saw the toad hopping around its mountainous surroundings.
It wasn’t until members of the indigenous community got together with scientists at Global White Conservation that they discovered the species never vanished in the first place. Researchers previous thought that the toad, given the scientific tag Atelopus aryescue, was killed off by the notorious chytrid fungus, which has endangered other wildlife worldwide, but particularly in South America.
Cited as the world’s deadliest disease, it reportedly kills animals in contact with the fungus remarkably fast by compromising its respiration system, which triggers fatal heart attacks. It turns out that the starry night toad managed to sidestep the pathogen, although many members of its harlequin family haven’t been so lucky.