Natural mysteries

Two news reports about the persistence of nature's diversity are a welcome counterpoint, if only a tiny one, to the usual news of environmental degradation.

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Daily we hear of the damage humans inflict on nature. Climate change, desertification, over-fishing and pollution to name a few. Sometimes, however, a drop of good news contrasts with the bucket of bad. And this week brings us two stories about the persistence of wildlife, against all the odds.

In the US a new species of frog has been discovered, not in some rural backwater but right in New York City, that prime icon of urbanism. And in this country, an implausible fish that walks on land and breathes air, last seen in the UAE 35 years ago, has been spotted again.

Walton's mudskipper, a pop-eyed predator, likes the edges of coastal lagoons, The National reports today, and its reappearance puzzles naturalists because that's just the sort of environment that has been dredged, developed and otherwise "improved" in so many places.

Meanwhile the Rutgers University doctoral candidate who found the new frog in New York's Staten Island borough has received confirmation that it is distinct from its cousins, leopard frogs. That any species could survive undetected in such a place is a true mystery of nature.

To be sure, happy little stories like these are consistently overwhelmed by news of looming extinctions and environmental degradation. But heartening reports can induce us all to marvel at, respect, and encourage the diversity and persistence of life.