A rare species of tree frog may now be extinct following the death of its last known living member that lived in captivity.
The frog called Toughie died in its enclosure at the Atlanta Botanical Garden. The male amphibian, which is believed to be about 12 years old, was found dead during a routine daily inspection conducted on Sept. 29.
"It's a sad day here at the Garden as we mourn the loss of our beloved Rabbs' fringe-limbed tree frog, " the Atlanta Botanical Garden posted on its Facebook page. "He will be missed by Garden staff and visitors alike."
Members of Toughie's species were graceful gliders and incredible climbers that can soar from one tree to another by toe webbing.
In 2005, a team of scientists collected live animals in Panama as a deadly chytrid disease, an infectious disease in amphibians, threatened species in Central Panama. Scientists compared the effort to rescuing things from a burning house.
The scientist brought back to Atlanta a new species of tree frog (Ecnomiohyla rabborum), the Rabbs' fringe-limbed tree frog.
The disease eventually struck Panama, resulting in the disappearance of many frogs. Field studies suggest that up to 85 percent of the amphibians found on Toughie's home turf were gone. It is likewise unlikely that any of his kind survived in the wild.
Toughie was found in 2005 but it was not until 2008 that his own species, was described.
"Science had a very short window to learn about the species in the wild before this disease struck the only known locality for the frog and the species vanished," said Atlanta Botanical Garden President Mary Pat Matheson.
In 2008, the Garden bought a climate-controlled facility called the Frog Pod to house the Rabbs' tree frog and other rare amphibians, where they can be completely isolated from each other. This is the facility where Tougie spent the last eight years of its life.
The loss of Toughie and his species is tragic, but other amphibian species are also at risk of getting wiped out. Scientists estimate that up to one-half of amphibian species all over the world are at risk of extinction.
"A lot of attention had been paid to him in captivity, so he even has his own Wikipedia page," said Amphibian Foundation Head Mark Mandica, who worked with Toughie for seven years. "But there are plenty of other species out there that are disappearing, sometimes before we even knew that they were there."