Matsés shaman with frog. Photograph taken by Christopher Herndon, MD in a remote region of the upper Peruvian Amazon.
In recognition of Amphibian Ark winning mongabay.com’s 2011 conservation award, our pictures of the day this week will focus on amphibians.
The giant monkey frog (Phyllomedusa bicolor) is known for its mind-altering skin secretions. A small handful of tribes deep in the Amazonian rainforest between Peru and Brazil have used this species in hunting rituals. The secretions, rich in a diversity of bioactive peptides, are administered directly into the body through application onto fresh inflicted burn wounds. Within moments, the toxins induce intense cardiovascular and autonomic responses, ultimately leading to a state of altered consciousness and heightened sensory acuity.
Scientists have long valued for amphibians for their contribution to science and potential to develop new medicines. Yet amphibians worldwide face a range of threats including habitat loss, the outbreak of a deadly fungal disease, pollution, climate change, introduction of alien species, the use of pesticides, over-collection for the pet trade, and over-hunting. Over 165 recorded species have become extinct in the past century; more than one third of amphibians globally are considered at risk for extinction.