Amphibian extinction may be worse than thought
October 31, 2007
Writing in PLoS ONE, a team of scientists warned that the number of amphibian species have been greatly underestimated. They estimate that there may be 170 to 460 unrecognized frog taxa in Amazonia-Guianas region alone and up to a total of 4400 species in South America.
The researchers say their work shows the urgent need to catalog biodiversity before it disappears.
"As a consequence of the underestimation of the number of frog species, the global amphibian decline detected especially in the Neotropics may be worse than so far realised," write the authors. "Indeed, we cannot know how many "species" instead of "populations" have already disappeared or are disappearing, and the situation is particularly acute in the tropics."
A previously unknown species of toad, possibly of the Atelopus genus, discovered during a Conservation International-led expedition in Suriname's Nassau plateau. Atelopus toads have been particularly affected by the deadly chytrid fungus. Photo © Paul Ouboter
Amphibians -- cold-blooded animals that include frogs, toads, salamanders, newts and caecilians -- are dying in huge numbers all over the planet: the Global Amphibian Assessment, a comprehensive status assessment of the world's amphibian species, reports that one-third of the world's 5,918 known amphibian species are classified as threatened with extinction and more than 170 species have likely gone extinct since 1980. While scientists have yet to find a smoking gun, climate change, pollution, and the emergence of a deadly and infectious fungal disease, which has been linked to global warming, are the leading suspects for the observed decline.
Citation: Fouquet A, Gilles A, Vences M, Marty C, Blanc M, et al (2007) Underestimation of Species Richness in Neotropical Frogs Revealed by mtDNA Analyses. PLoS ONE 2(10): e1109. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0001109
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(10/29/2007) New Zealand scientists have found a treatment for a disease blamed for the death of millions of amphibians worldwide, according to a report from BBC News. However, at best, the cure would only be applicable to captive populations. The disease is killing many amphibians in apparently pristine habitats.
Two new species of salamander discovered in Panama
(9/9/2007) Scientists have discovered two new species of salamanders from the mountainous Costa Rica-Panama border region. The findings, published by David B. Wake, Jay M. Savage, and James Hanken in the journal Copeia, push the number of salamanders known in the region to 24, making it a hotspot in terms of salamander biodiversity.
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Scientists meet in Hungary to discuss saving dying frogs
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(7/2/2007) Two new studies in the Amazon rainforest show that plantation forests and second-growth forests have lower species counts for butterflies, reptiles, and amphibians than adjacent primary forest areas. The research has important implications for conservation of tropical biodiversity in a world where old-growth forest is increasingly replaced by secondary forests, industrial plantations, and agricultural landscapes.
Global warming may be key factor in frog deaths
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(4/16/2007) Chilling new evidence suggests amphibians may be in worse shape than previously thought due to climate change. Further, the findings indicate that the 70 percent decline in amphibians over the past 35 years may have been exceeded by a sharp fall in reptile populations, even in otherwise pristine Costa Rican habitats. Ominously, the new research warns that protected areas strategies for biodiversity conservation will not be enough to stave off extinction. Frogs and their relatives are in big trouble.