Some interesting news from researchers working in Panama.

Dr. Karen Lips and her team documented the association of disease and the massive decline of amphibians within a protected national park in El Cope, Panama in 2006 (Lips, K. R., Brem, F., Brenes, R., Reeve, J. D., Alford, R. A., Voyles, J., Carey, C., Livo, L., Pessier, A. P. & Collins, J. P. 2006. Emerging infectious disease and the loss of biodiversity in a Neotropical amphibian community. Proc. Nat. Acad. Sci. 103:3165-3170.). Further findings just published by Andrew Crawford, Karen Lips and Eldredge Berminhama in PNAS have shown through DNA barcoding techniques that although 30 species are known to have disappeared from this study site, nearly a dozen more may have disappeared before they were even described to science!

I ran across this recent press on the subject following the publication of their paper and thought I’d share it. http://www.physorg.com/news198764525.html

More information on this publication can be found here: http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2010/07/09/0914115107

Knowing that habitat loss is the number one threat to amphibians and thinking about how many species we KNOW are lost to habitat loss, it makes me think about how these new data may indicate that even more species lost via destruction of their homes is even higher than we know! Not only are species going missing faster than we discover new ones, the rate is much higher than I would have thought.

Dr. Karen Lips and her team documented the association of disease and the massive decline of amphibians within a protected national park in El Cope, Panama in 2006 (Lips, K. R., Brem, F., Brenes, R., Reeve, J. D., Alford, R. A., Voyles, J., Carey, C., Livo, L., Pessier, A. P. & Collins, J. P. 2006. Emerging infectious disease and the loss of biodiversity in a Neotropical amphibian community. Proc. Nat. Acad. Sci. 103:3165-3170.). Further findings just published by Andrew Crawford, Karen Lips and Eldredge Bermingham in PNAS have shown through DNA barcoding techniques that although 30 species are known to have disappeared from this study site, nearly a dozen more may have disappeared before they were even described to science!

I ran across this recent press on the subject following the publication of their paper and thought I’d share it: http://www.physorg.com/news198764525.html

More information on this publication can be found here: http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2010/07/09/0914115107

Knowing that habitat loss is the number one threat to amphibians and thinking about how many species we KNOW are lost to habitat loss, it makes me think about how these new data may indicate that even more species lost via destruction of their homes is even higher than we know! Not only are species going missing faster than we discover new ones, the rate is much higher than I would have thought.

Mongabay.com just posted a powerful update on the chytrid fungus’ connection to global warming, but what I find most interesting is how Mr. Butler summarizes the amphibian crisis. This is a great primer as well as refresher course:

“The Global Amphibian Assessment reports that nearly one third of all species (32%) are threatened, with 42% having declined since the 1980s. As many as 165 species are thought to have become extinct during the past thirty years. Calculations comparing current extinction rates of amphibians to background, or normal, extinction rates have yielded a current rate that is 211 times larger than background rates. When endangered species are included in the calculation, the result is expanded to 25,039–45,474 times that of background extinction rates.

“Amphibian declines have grown so severe that in February 16th, 2007, scientists from all over the world met in Atlanta, GA, to form the Amphibian Ark, a group dedicated to the preservation of more than 6,000 species of frogs, toads, salamanders, and caecilians (a group of subterrestrial wormlike amphibians). Their aim is mainly concerned with implementing captive breeding programs to safeguard the most threatened species.

“Along with providing a vital loss to biodiversity, amphibian declines foreshadow problems that other organisms may experience in the future. Amphibians are an important “index” group; the health of individual species serves as a powerful indicator of the health of an entire ecosystem. Scientists believe that what is happening to amphibians now will someday happen to other organisms, including humans.”

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