Photos of the top 10 most threatened amphibians
Jeremy Hance, mongabay.com
January 21, 2008
As amphibians decline worldwide, organization releases list of the 100 most endangered and unique
"Tragically, amphibians tend to be the overlooked members of the animal kingdom, even though one in every three amphibian species is currently threatened with extinction, a far higher proportion than that of bird or mammal species," said Dr Jonathan Baillie, head of the EDGE organization which has just established an amphibian conservation program.
To help save these species on the brink, EDGE, a part of the Zoological Society of London, has compiled a list of the hundred most threatened and evolutionary distinct amphibians.
For this year, EDGE has chosen ten amphibians to receive immediate conservation attention:
- The Chinese giant salamander can reach five feet in length, making it the world's largest amphibian.
- The Sagalla caecilian is a limbless amphibian resembling an earthworm.
- Nasikabatrachus sahyadrensis is a purple-pigmented frog that was only discovered in 2003. It is the only member of the first new frog family discovered since 1926. It remained hidden from science for so long, because it spends the majority of the year buried twelve feet underground.
- The six species of ghost frogs from South Africa, one of which lives only in the traditional burial grounds of Skeleton Gorge in Table Mountain.
- The Olm is a blind salamander that lives in water caves in Europe. It hunts for its prey by smell and electrosensitivity and has proven in controlled experiments that it can survive without food for an astonishing 10 years.
- The lungless salamanders of Mexico breathe through their skin and mouth lining.
- The Malagasy rainbow frog lives up to its name with its vibrant markings and possesses the unique ability to climb vertical surfaces.
- The Chile Darwin's frog may already be extinct. It has not been seen since the 1980s. It is one of only two species in the family Rhinodermatidae. Unusually the father will collect their tadpoles in their mouth for protection.
- The Betic midwife toad from Spain, whose males carry fertilized eggs wrapped around their hind legs, evolved over 150 million years ago.
- The Gardiner's Seychelles frog may be the world's smallest frog. They grow up to 11mm in length—small enough to find a fingernail roomy.
Chinese Giant Salamander. Photo from the International Cooperation Network for Giant Salamander Conservation
A gallery of the 10 most threatened amphibians
Chinese Giant Salamander - International Cooperation Network for Giant Salamander Conservation
Sagalla caecilian - John Measey
Purple frog - Sathyabhama Das Biju
Heleophryne rosei - Vincent Carruthers
Olm - Arne Hodalic
Malagasy rainbow frog. Photo by George Sunter/ZSL
Aquatic false brook salamander - Jonathan Campbell
Darwin's frog, but not the Chile Darwin's frog - Jaime Bosch
Betic midwife toad - Jaime Bosch
Gardiner's Seychelles frog - Naomi Dook
Amphibians are far older than mammals and birds. They first developed in the Devonian period around 365 million years ago, and have survived four mass extinction events since then, including the alleged comet that wiped-out the dinosaurs. However, it appears that they may not survive the current Holocene mass extinction, purportedly caused by environmental changes caused by humans. According to EDGE's website, nearly half of the world's amphibians are in decline while 165 species may already be extinct. Dr. Baillie calls them "the canaries in the coalmine. If we lose them, other species will inevitably follow. The EDGE programme strives to protect the world's forgotten species and ensure that the weirdest species survive the current extinction crisis and astound future generations with their extraordinary uniqueness."
Launched in January of 2007, EDGE has achieved numerous successes in its first year. The program discovered proof that the Long-beaked echidna still survives in Papua New Guinea and took the first footage of the Long-eared Jerboa in the wild. It has also set up local fellows to study and work toward conservation plans for the Pygmy hippopotamus, the Bactrian camel, and the Bumblebee bat. Perhaps most importantly, the organization has brought many long-ignored (but greatly endangered) species to public attention.
As amphibians leap toward extinction, alliance pushes "The Year of the Frog"
(12/31/2007) With amphibians experiencing dramatic die-offs in pristine habitats worldwide, an alliance of zoos, botanical gardens and aquariums has launched a desperate public appeal to raise funds for emergency conservation measures. Scientists say that without quick action, one-third to one-half the world's frogs, toads, salamanders, newts and caecilians could disappear.
Amphibian extinction may be worse than thought
(10/31/2007) Amphibian extinction rates may be higher than previously thought, according to new DNA analysis that found more than 60 unrecognized species in the Guiana Shield of South America.
Scientists find treatment for killer frog disease
(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.
Scientists find possible cure for global amphibian-killing disease
(5/23/2007) Scientists have discovered a possible treatment for the fungal disease that has killed millions of amphibians worldwide. Presenting Wednesday at the General Meeting of the American Society for Microbiology in Toronto, Professor Reid N. Harris at James Madison University reported that Pedobacter cryoconitis, a bacteria found naturally on the skin of red-backed salamanders, wards off the deadly chytridiomycosis fungus, an infection cited as a contributing factor to the global decline in amphibians observed over the past three decades.
Why poison dart frogs are poisonous
(5/14/2007) Mites -- not ants as long believed -- appear to be the primary source of toxins used by poison arrow frogs to defend against predators, reports new research published in the early online edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). Poison dart frogs, colorful amphibians with skin secretions so toxic that they are used by indigenous populations to poison the tips of hunting arrows, are one of several groups of animals capable of sequestering deadly compounds from dietary sources without being harmed. Until now, it was believed that ants were the primary source of these defensive skin alkaloids in frogs.
Frogs avoid damaging UV-B radiation, reducing extinction risk
(4/18/2007) Poison arrow frogs appear to make special effort to avoid exposure to damaging ultraviolet-B radiation, according to research published in the journal Biotropica. The findings are significant in light of increasing levels of UV-B radiation due to ozone depletion.
Bad news for frogs; amphibian decline worse than feared
(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.