I am quite proud that I have one species of animal named after me: Atelopus coynei, a small “harlequin frog” that was first caught (by me, when I was a student) in the forests of western Ecuador. It was formally described by my best friend in graduate school, the polymath Ken Miyata (co-author of Tropical Nature), who, tragically, was killed in a fishing accident in 1983. The story of Ken, how he came to name the frog after me, and other details of these beautiful creatures (I include Ken in that category), are described here, here, and here.
For years Atelopus coynei has been thought to be extinct: it’s a denizen of the wet forests of western Ecuador, which are being lost to human depredation at an alarming rate; and of course frogs worldwide are being decimated by a chytrid fungus. A. coynei has not, in fact, been seen since 1984.
Until a week ago.
I found out yesterday that it’s STILL ALIVE! Here’s a short email I received last night.
I would like to inform you about my observation of an individual of “Atelopus coynei” on February 7, 2012 at Chinambi, Carchi, Ecuador. Attached are 2 photographs. The species is listed as Critically Endangered.
Dr. Andreas Kay, Cotacachi, Ecuador
Dr. Kay enclosed two photographs he took of the living frog, which are only the second and third pictures that have been made. It’s far prettier than the pickled type specimen at Harvard’s Museum of Comparative Zoology, which lost its color (click to enlarge to full glory):
Perhaps I’m too steeped in theology, but I sense a metaphor here: like the memory of my erstwhile best pal, the frog is still with us.