Hula painted frog
'Extinct' Hula painted frog rediscovered in IsraelReuters

Israel's Hula painted frog, a species which was declared extinct in 1996, has been rediscovered and declared as a "living fossil."

The Hula painted frog was first discovered in March 1940. Only three frogs had been found until the 1950s when Israel's Hula valley drained. Since then, for nearly 60 years, this species of frog was not seen. In 1996, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) declared the species frog as extinct. But in 2011, a Hula painted frog was found by a park ranger at the Hula Nature Reserve. Ranger Yoram Malka identified the species with its distinctive black-and-white-spotted belly.

A total of 14 frogs have been discovered so far including the one found by the ranger. Using genetic tests and CT scans, scientists found that the species, which were earlier classified as a member of the Discoglossus group of amphibians, actually belonged to the Latonia group that died out 15,000 years ago, reported BBC.

The species belonging to  the Latonia group were once found throughout Europe for millions of years, but all except the Hula painted frog, died out 15,000 years ago. The Hula painted frog has now been reclassified as a "living fossil", organism that has retained its form for millions years of years and has very few or no living relatives.

"Nobody ever had a chance to see a Latonia because it went extinct in Europe. The only way anyone could see it was through looking at fossils," said Professor Sarig Gafny, from the Ruppin Academic Center, in Israel, according to BBC.

"But then with every characteristic that you look at in the current Hula painted frogs, it matches that of the fossils of Latonia and not that of the Discoglossus... So this is a living fossil," he said.

The details of the study are published in the journal Nature Communications.