16% of frogs species in Sri Lanka may be gone, new survey finds
July 2, 2005
In a study published Thursday in Raffles Bulletin of Zoology, researchers confirmed the discovery of 35 new frog species in Sri Lanka over the past decade bringing the number of frog species in the island country to 105. However, the survey found that 17 of these species have disappeared and at least another 11 face imminent extinction unless their habitat is protected.
Sri Lanka is known as a global biodiversity hotspot for its high number of species in a relatively limited area. The island’s frog diversity illustrates this point: despite covering only 0.013% of the world’s land surface, Sri Lanka is home to more than 2% percent of the world’s 5,067 known frog and toad species. The island is also home to 3,210 flowering plant species, of which 916 species are endemic.
Sri Lanka’s biodiversity is highly threatened. Conservation International estimates that only around 1.5% of the island’s original forest remains in the country, much of which was lost under British colonial rule, when large tracts of forest were cleared for rubber, coffee, and tea plantations.
Sri Lanka’s loss of frog species is not unique — amphibian populations are rapidly declining worldwide. The Global Amphibian Assessment, a survey of the planet’s amphibian species, found that nearly a third (32%) of the world’s amphibian species are theatened. By comparison, 12% of bird species and 23% of mammal species are endangered.
Scientists are unsure of what is ultimately behind this decline, though the leading theory links global climate change to the emergence of deadly chytrid fungal disease. This fungus, which kills frogs by damaging the keratin layer of their skin, has decimated frogs worldwide.
This article used information from the AP, the Global Amphibian Assessment, Conservation International, and Raffles Bulletin of Zoology.