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.

I have written two posts on atrazine, the common herbicide. One post  mentioned a report that atrazine affects organ development in frogs. The other refers to a study showing that frogs’ immune systems are suppressed when exposed to atrazine.  Now there is a report by the Huffington Post that atrazine levels in human drinking water exceed federal safety limits in four states.

Records that tracked the amount of the weed-killer atrazine in about 150 watersheds from 2003 through 2008 were obtained by the Huffington Post Investigative Fund under the Freedom of Information Act. An analysis found that yearly average levels of atrazine in drinking water violated the federal standard at least ten times in communities in Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, and Kansas, all states where farmers rely heavily on the herbicide.

Frogs are the canaries in the coal mine, remember? It’s best not to ignore the canaries. The frogs warned us, and those warnings are not being heeded.

The connection between frog deformities and pesticides and herbicides has been reported a lot. But here is a new study by Southern Illinois University in Carbondale that shows how little it really takes to harm amphibians. Imagine there was a pool of water in a farm pond that had the presence of only a trace (0.0000000003*) of pesticide ingredient edosulfan. That would be enough to kill half of the pond’s frog population. Take the 3 and make it 8, and every frog dies. Here’s the news release explaining the study:http://www.newswise.com/articles/view/555153/?sc=rssn (*Double check my decimal conversion. What I’m attempting to show is 0.3 parts per billion.)

An excerpt from the release:

The foothill yellow-legged frog is especially susceptible to the chemicals such as endosulfans, which kill by essentially overloading the nervous system and rendering breathing muscles useless. Europe and Australia each have banned the use of the chemical as a pesticide, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency also is studying the issue, Sparling said.

Sparling is optimistic humans can find ways to both farm on a large enough scale to feed the population and protect non-pest animals.

“To produce crops to provide for the world we have to use pesticides, and I’m not anti-pesticide,” he said. “But it’s important for us as scientists, agriculturalists and environmental protectors to make sure we continue developing pesticides that are as protective as possible of non-target animals as can be, both in the chemicals we use and application methods.”


Click link below for video

Click link below for video

You have to see this video from BBC showing tadpoles swarming their mom to feast on her infertile eggs. This rare glimpse is something you wouldn’t be able to see if it weren’t for the captive breeding programs of organizations to save endangered species. It’s all connected to the umbrella program of Amphibian Ark.

Excerpts from the story:

The remarkable footage was recorded at the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, in Jersey, which took in 12 of the rescued frogs. Twenty-six others went to Parken Zoo in Sweden, and 12 are now housed in ZSL London Zoo.

“We thought that the eggs would come out and drop to the bottom of the nest and then the tadpoles would start eating them. But the footage shows about 40 tadpoles congregating around the female and eating the eggs as they come out of the female’s body.”

There are about 6,000 species of amphibians on the planet today. By the time we pass on and leave the world in our children’s hands, one-third to one-half of the species will have gone extinct. It’s projected by scientists to be the most significant mass extinction since the dinosaur. Maybe you’ve heard about this. Maybe not. But following is a straightforward accounting of the tectonic changes behind the massive, global disappearance of frogs, toads, salamanders, newts, and caecilians.  The way to act is to read up and help Amphibian Ark at www.amphibianark.org.

Chytrid, the AIDS of amphibiaChytrid is a fungal borne disease that is toxic to 80% of amphibian species. For thousands of years, it was confined to a section of Africa. The African Clawed Frog was one of the lucky 20% of species that was immune to the disease. But when the medical industry discovered African Clawed Frogs could be used as an ingenious pregnancy test for humans, they shipped the frogs out of Africa to all parts of the world. The species carried the Chytrid fungus with it, and the disease exploded. Most recently it has decimated the chicken frog population of Montserrat, and crossed the Panama Canal. Here are links to more information:

Watch for future posts that complete the five reasons:

Habitat destruction -

Pollution -

Global Warming -

Indifference -

It’s well chronicled that Panama’s amphibians are dying off because of chytrid (background on chytri click HERE). But there are steps that humans can take to slow the spread of chytrid as scientists search for a cure. Here’s a great article from Julie Ray of Examiner.com. In a nutshell, her advice is to take special steps to make sure your boots and wheels don’t accidentally spread chytrid after you visit an infected location.

Six years ago, promises were made by governments from around the world involving the mass extinctions facing so many animal classes, chief among them the amphibian class. The governments vowed to halt the decline in biodiversity by 2o1o. Well, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) just issued a report that says, in essence, “let’s not kid ourselves, when next year comes around, it’s going to be bleak.”

IUCN, which puts out the Red List of most endangered species, has produced a 150-page report that details the loss of biodiversity earth has experienced over the last 5 years. “Biodiversity continues to decline and next year no one will dispute that,” said the report’s senior editor. “It’s happening everywhere.”

Here’s a link to story I just read about this.  (Click HERE.)

An excerpt from the IUCN Web site:

The report shows nearly one third of amphibians, more than one in eight birds and nearly a quarter of mammals are threatened with extinction. For some plant groups, such as conifers and cycads, the situation is even more serious, with 28 percent and 52 percent threatened respectively. For all these groups, habitat destruction, through agriculture, logging and development, is the main threat and occurs worldwide.

In the case of amphibians, the fungal disease chytridiomycosis is seriously affecting an increasing number of species, complicating conservation efforts. For birds, the highest number of threatened species is found in Brazil and Indonesia, but the highest proportion of threatened or extinct birds is found on oceanic islands. Invasive species and hunting are the main threats. For mammals, unsustainable hunting is the greatest threat after habitat loss. This is having a major impact in Asia, where deforestation is also occurring at a very rapid rate.

From the American Airlines in flight magazine, American Way, a full feature on the amphibian crisis. Here’s nice excerpt mentioning Amphibian Ark:

The idea of the Amphibian Ark initiative is to get out in front of the population crashes and to collect healthy frogs, whisk them to safety, and establish breeding stocks — with the hope of reintroducing the species to the wild when the coast is clear. In Australia, scientists have modified shipping containers to create frog “clean rooms” in the field. In the United States, they’ve saved the Wyoming toad in captivity, but it has disappeared from the high plains, and reintroduced populations keep encountering the deadly fungus. Biologists are also rushing to respond as the fungus attacks the boreal toad in Colorado and the red-legged frog in California’s Sierra Nevada. And many more frog rescues are underway in Costa Rica and several other countries.

Full story HERE.

Frogs are disappearing at an alarming rate in Europe: “Fifty-nine percent of all European amphibians and 42 percent of reptiles are declining and face even greater risk than European mammals and birds, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature said.” CLICK HERE FOR FULL STORY.

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