3 New Toad Species Are Just Discovered In Nevada, And They Are Already Under Threat

24 July 2017, 8:46 am EDT By Katrina Pascual Tech Times
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The Dixie Valley toad was found in a spring-fed marsh in the Great Basin of Nevada, among the most arid regions in the country with only 1 percent of the landscape containing water. It is feared to be under threat due to a proposed geothermal project in the area.   ( Mike Wolterbeek | University of Nevada, Reno )

Three new toad species emerged in Nevada’s Great Basin from a survey of the 190,000-square-mile lake bottom.

While discovering new toads prove massively rare in the country with the last one found in 1968 and now extinct, conservationists are already preparing to petition for one of the new toads’ listing as an endangered species.

3 New Toad Discoveries

The three new toad species are the Dixie Valley toad, the Railroad Valley toad, and the Hot Creek toad. They surfaced from the 10-year survey of the desert-dominated Great Basin by the team of lead scientist Dick Tracy.

“These are absolutely new, true species that have been separated from other populations for 650,000 years,” Tracy, a biology professor from the University of Nevada, Reno, said in a statement.

The toads were seen in small and wet habitats with high desert around. Tracy’s team used 30 metrics and DNA studies to analyze their characteristics, determining if each of them were different from the Western toad seen in the entire Western United States.

The small toads are distinguished by their colors and other unique features. The Dixie Valley toad, for instance, is a 2-inch-long creature marked by flecks of gold on an olive background — a far cry from the huge green toads typically seen in other marshes, Tracy explained.

The Railroad Valley toad is located in the Tonopah Basin in central Nevada’s desert, while the Hot Creek Toad is situated around 35 miles away in Hot Creek Mountain Range.

On The Brink Of Extinction

Conservationists are already gearing up for an emergency petition to have the Dixie Valley toad listed as endangered, in plans to protect it from a projected geothermal energy project at the edge of its isolated Churchill County home.

The proposed site by Reno-based Ormat Technologies could dry up the marsh, threatening the toad’s survival.

At present, the development seeking to build two 30-megawatt geothermal power plants is on hold, as the Bureau of Land Management analyzes the plan and its possible effects on the toad species.

“[Ormat is] committed to developing its renewable, geothermal facilities in the most environmentally friendly way possible, and we look forward to meeting the requirements put forward by the Bureau of Land Management,” said Paul Thomsen, the company’s executive director for government and regulatory affairs.

Patrick Donnelly of the national environmental group Center for Biological Diversity warned that a small disruption could be irreversible, where the spring drying up for just one year could spell the species’ extinction.

Tracy dubbed it a “tough conflict between commerce and biological resources,” deeming the toad a close candidate for an endangered species listing.

The government office is currently reviewing comments on the environment assessment, preparing to release a decision on the geothermal plan.

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