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.

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.

Veronica from Bolivia just told me about a frog I hadn’t heard of before — Telmatobius culeus, or the Lake Titicaca frog.  This species has to deal with very thin oxygen high in the Andes, so mother nature has given it special characteristics. The following is excerpted from Livingunderworld.org. Note that the species is considered vulnerable and yet people are reportedly eating them.  Full article HERE.

Telmatobius culeus is referred to as the Lake Titicaca Frog, and is only found in Lake Titicaca. Because of the lower oxygen content in and around the lake, T. culeus must have an efficient method of obtaining the necessary amount of oxygen for survival. To do this, T. culeus respires mainly by means of cutaneous respiration (breathing through the skin), is exclusively aquatic, and possesses large folds of skin all over the body that make it appear flabby and prehistoric. The extra folds of skin increase the amount of oxygen absorbed through the skin because they increase the surface area to volume ratio; a characteristic that is also observed in other permanently aquatic amphibians. These frogs also do “push-ups” that create small disturbances in the water, which increases oxygen flow. The unique blood of T. culeus also aids oxygen absorption. The blood has the smallest erythrocytes (red blood cells) of all the amphibians, and the highest amount of hemoglobin. Hemoglobin are molecules in the blood that bind to oxygen, so the more hemoglobin an animal has, the more oxygen it can carry in the blood at one time. Because of their aquatic nature, these frogs have evolved reduced lungs, and rely almost entirely on cutaneous respiration.

Although classed as “vulnerable” with C.I.T.E.S., T. culeus are eaten in restaurants in Bolivia and Peru, and are a popular tourist dish. Recently, they have been collected for use in what the natives call frog juice, or Peruvian viagra. The frogs are literally put in a blender, and consumed.

Daniel Craig, Prince Charles, Pele, Prince William, Prince Harry, Robin Williams, Joss Stone, Harrison Ford, and Kermit the Frog costar with a bright, green frog for a video PSA supporting the Prince’s Rainforest Project. There is a frog in every scene, and no other animal, which underscores that people are starting to get it: amphibians are the canaries in the coal mine for our planet’s health — and our personal health, too. As you check out the Prince’s Rainforest Project, keep Amphibian Ark in mind, as well.

Wish we had been able to pull off something this magnificent during 2008 the year of the frog. But what a great boost to 2009.

In Madagascar, scientists have discovered up to 221 new species of frogs. Here’s the CNN report. This has led the research team to wonder if the count of 6,000 amphibian species we have assumed are on the planet are, in truth, 12,000. Excerpt:

“The diversity of species in Madagascar is far from being known and there is still a lot of scientific research to be done. Our data suggest that the number of new species of amphibians not only has been underestimated but it is spatially widespread, even in well studied areas,” said Professor David R. Vieites, CSIC researcher to the press at the Spanish National Natural Sciences Museum in Madrid.\

That should not create any false sense of security, or relief, about the plight of amphibians. Applying the new, suggested number of 12,000 species, that just means 4,000-6,000 of them could disappear in our lifetime, instead of 2,000-3,000.

A Sunday salute to the Ohio State scientists trying to bring the wood frog back to Franklin County, Ohio. This story from the Columbus Dispatch is very interesting.

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