Sunday, February 24, 2008

Global Amphibian Declines call for frog costumes.

There are few, if any, taxa losing species diversity as quickly and thoroughly as the amphibians.


"Amphibians, a unique group of vertebrates containing over 6,200 known species, are threatened worldwide. A recent assessment of the entire group ( found that nearly one-third (32%) of the world’s amphibian species are threatened, representing 1,856 species. Amphibians have existed on earth for over 300 million years, yet in just the last two decades there have been an alarming number of extinctions, nearly 168 species are believed to have gone extinct and at least 2,469 (43%) more have populations that are declining. This indicates that the number of extinct and threatened species will probably continue to rise (Stuart et al. 2004)."

And this is almost surely an overly optimistic view. The thousands of species for which we have no data are not considered threatened, and an unknown number of others, likely in the hundreds, has gone extinct without ever being discovered.

Amphibian lineages that have existed for tens of millions of years are ending shockingly quickly. The factors that are killing off these ancient groups are all the works of humanity: pesticides, industrial pollutants, introduced species and diseases, habitat destruction and alteration and rapid climate change. There is no reasonable doubt but that we have driven the rate of amphibian extinction to several thousand times its natural rate. We could barely kill them off more quickly if we tried. Genocide is not too strong a term.

Amphibians are widely seen as indicator species. Healthy ecosystems have healthy amphibians. Indications are poor.

So to help raise (the currently abysmally low) awareness of the scope of amphibian declines, Iris and I have decided to walk Bay to Breakers wearing homemade from costumes. And we hope to organize a group of friends and colleagues to walk with us, similarly garbed. A costume recognizable as an amphibian, or even a shirt with amphibian pictures on it. Perhaps we will hand out informational pamphlets to people who ask what we are about. If you are interested in joining us, please email me.

1 comment:

Zita said...

I am definetely interested joining (frog is my favorite animal), hopefully I am not too late ;)