Paleonet: Known First as Fossils

"Nieves López Martínez" lopezmar at
Wed Mar 7 15:03:11 GMT 2007

Another example of a species firts described as a fossil, then discovered as a living species is Baleaphryne muletensis Sanchiz & Adrover 1977, described as an extinct, primitive  paleo-endemic toad  species of the family Discoglossidae from Balearic Islands. In 1980, some small living population were discovered at the north of Majorca Island (Hemmer and Alcover, 1984). The local people named this toad "ferretet". Caryological and molecular studies reinterpreted its relationships, considering it as a neo-endemic species derived from Alytes obstetricans (the midwife toad). The species was thus transferred to the genus Alytes and renamed as A. muletensis (Sanchiz & Adrover 1977). 
The reviewers Hemmer and Alcover considered this species as a "living fossil" because "it was first discovered as a fossil". However, the concept of "living fossil" is different (a taxon with very stable phenotype through time), and their re-evaluation of the Baleaphryne phylogeny as a recent, derived  species of midwife toad contradicts this concept. 
By the way, this is another case of strongly incongruent phylogenies based on skeletal morphology versus molecular evidence.

Nieves López-Martínez
Universidad Complutense
Madrid, Spain

----- Mensaje original -----
De: Carl Mehling <cosm at>
Fecha: Martes, Marzo 6, 2007 11:00 pm
Asunto: Paleonet: Known First as Fossils
A: paleonet at, vrtpaleo at

> Dear all,
> Latimeria and Metasequoia are prime examples of taxa known as 
> fossils 
> before being found extant. What other examples are out there in 
> the literature?
> Thanks,
> Carl
> Carl Mehling
> Fossil Amphibian, Reptile, and Bird Collections
> Division of Paleontology
> American Museum of Natural History
> Central Park West @79th Street
> New York, NY  10024
> (212) 769-5849
> Fax: (212) 769-5842
> cosm at

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