There’s a bird that sounds like it’s playing a flute, a tap-dancing spider, and a very chunky catfish.
These are the latest elusive species that have made their way onto Re:Wild’s 25 Most Wanted Lost Species list. These creatures have unverified sightings but enough scientific data to lead researchers to believe they still exist.
In the five years since the search for the lost species began, researchers have discovered eight of the 25 most sought-after species lost to science. So they added eight more. The new entries come from 17 countries and have been chosen from a list of over 2,000 lost species.
Re:wild maintains a list of all lost species in partnership with the Species Survival Commission of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The list has more than 2,200 species.
“The top 25 is a representative sample of this broader list that spans geographies and species groups of animals, plants and fungi,” said Barney Long, senior director of conservation strategies at Re:wild and manager of the Search for Lost Species program at Treehugger.
“Some species are from afar, and others we believe can be found with the effort and skill. The Lost Species Program aims to inspire people to care about neglected and forgotten species, so we want species on the list that speak to a wide variety of people The top 25 list are all charismatic in their own right and hopefully as a wallet there is a species that appeals to everyone.
Like maybe the dancing spider.
New to the list is the Fagilde Trapdoor Spider from Portugal which has been lost since 1931. The spider builds horizontal traps and clappers to attract a mate.
“I like that we have some really overlooked species on the list,” Long says. “Having a European spider on the list is really exciting, not only because most people don’t think of conservation when they think of spiders, but also because who would have thought there was a lost spider in Portugal? ”
In the waters there is the large Colombian catfish which has been extinct since 1957. It is the only freshwater catfish on Earth and it has rings of fatty tissue wrapped around its body. The researchers describe it as “the closest a fish can come to the Michelin Man”.
The South Island kōkako has been a lost bird in New Zealand since 2007. The bird’s haunting cry has been compared to a flute or organ.
The remaining new additions to the roster include:
- Togo mouse from Togo and Ghana (lost since 1890)
- Dwarf hutia (guinea pig-like rodent) from Cuba (lost since 1937)
- Pernambuco holly, a tree from Brazil (lost since 1838)
- Blanco blind salamander from Hays County, Texas (lost since 1951)
- Large puma mushroom from South America (lost since 1988)
“I’m also very happy that we were able to put a mushroom on the list this time,” says Long. “So little is known about fungi in general, I hope the inclusion of this species can spark more interest in this fascinating group of species.”
The power of rediscovery
Species on the updated 25 most wanted list include 10 mammals, four birds, four fish, two amphibians and one coral, one mushroom, one arachnid, one tree and one reptile. They have been lost for almost 70 years on average. At 185, the Pernambuco holly has been lost the longest, while the South Island kōkako had the most recent confirmed sighting just 15 years ago.
Since the Search for Lost Species program launched in 2017, researchers have confirmed the rediscovery of these original species on the original list: Jackson’s climbing salamander in Guatemala, Wallace’s giant bee and pitcher plant in Indonesia, silverback in Vietnam, the Somali sengi in Djibouti, the Voeltzkow’s chameleon in Madagascar, the giant tortoise Fernandina in the Galápagos and the Sierra Leone crab in Sierra Leone.
Long says he was not surprised that so many species from the original list were rediscovered.
“Some of the species on the original list hadn’t been seen for many years, but really needed someone to look after them and fetch them,” he says. “That’s exactly what this program is about; inspire people to care about neglected species. We know that many species on the list will require a Herculean effort to find – efforts to find Miss Waldron’s red colobus, for example, have been underway for four years for example.
Rediscovering lost species is the first step toward preventing their extinction, Long says.
“We are in an extinction crisis, but there are countless species that we can save from extinction. When a species is put on the lost species list, it acts as a warning that the species is in trouble and that efforts to find the species and implement conservation measures for it are needed,” he says.
“This program is a call to action for these species, a call to the world to go out and find these species because they need your help and only one person can make a difference.”