First-Ever Picture of Rainbow Toad, Found After 87 Years

One of the world's 10 most-wanted amphibians has finally been spotted (no pun intended). The Borneo Rainbow Toad, known for its vibrant, patchy coloring and unusually slender limbs, eluded scientists for 87 years before being spotted June 12 in the forest on the Malaysia-Indonesia border.

View a slideshow featuring the Borneo Rainbow Toad and other amazing animals.

The toad was last seen by European explorers in 1924, who left detailed sketches from the 1920s as the only illustrations identifying them.

But after searching the forests for months in the remote, mountainous border between Malaysia and Indonesia near the Kalimantan Barat Province, a graduate student from Universiti Malaysia Sawank eventually spotted the toad at a higher elevation. Pui Yong Min, working under researcher Indraneil Das, found one of the small endangered toads in a tree while canvassing the area with another student.

"Thrilling discoveries like this beautiful toad, and the critical importance of amphibians to healthy ecosystems, are what fuel us to keep searching for lost species," Das said in a press release from Washington-based Conservation International.

The researchers, working as part of Conservation International's Search for Lost Frogs initiative, discovered two more toads nearby, ranging in size from 3 centimeters to 5.1 centimeters. The adult female, adult male and juvenile all had bright pigmentation.

Das had been searching for the elusive toad on and off ever since August, directing several weeks of expeditions.

Robin Moore, who spearheaded the Search for Lost Frogs campaign, said when he saw the first pictures of the toads he could barely believe his eyes.

"The species was transformed in my mind from a black and white illustration to a living, colorful creature," he said in a statement announcing the discovery. "It is good to know that nature can surprise us when we are close to giving up hope, especially amidst our planet's escalating extinction crisis."

Moore told he found it interesting the species had been located so high up.

"The European explorers had found the frogs at a lower elevation. Logically that's where you would expect to find them again," he said. "Some studies have shown that some species are moving up in response to climate change."

Conservation International's Search for Lost Frogs began in August 2010, spanning 21 countries in search of 100 species.