Navigation Links
Dying frogs sign of a biodiversity crisis
Date:8/12/2008

BERKELEY Devastating declines of amphibian species around the world are a sign of a biodiversity disaster larger than just frogs, salamanders and their ilk, according to researchers from the University of California, Berkeley.

In an article published online this week in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the researchers argue that substantial die-offs of amphibians and other plant and animal species add up to a new mass extinction facing the planet.

"There's no question that we are in a mass extinction spasm right now," said David Wake, professor of integrative biology at UC Berkeley. "Amphibians have been around for about 250 million years. They made it through when the dinosaurs didn't. The fact that they're cutting out now should be a lesson for us."

The study, co-authored by Wake and Vance Vredenburg, research associate at the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology at UC Berkeley and assistant professor of biology at San Francisco State University, will appear in a special supplement to the journal featuring papers based on presentations from the December 2007 Arthur M. Sackler Colloquium of the National Academy of Sciences, "In the Light of Evolution II: Biodiversity and Extinction."

New species arise and old species die off all the time, but sometimes the extinction numbers far outweigh the emergence of new species. Extreme cases of this are called mass extinction events, and there have been only five in our planet's history, until now.

The sixth mass extinction event, which Wake and others argue is happening currently, is different from the past events. "My feeling is that behind all this lies the heavy hand of Homo sapiens," Wake said.

There is no consensus among the scientific community about when the current mass extinction started, Wake said. It may have been 10,000 years ago, when humans first came from Asia to the Americas and hunted many of the large mammals to extinction. It may have started after the Industrial Revolution, when the human population exploded. Or, we might be seeing the start of it right now, Wake said.

But no matter what the start date, empirical data clearly show that extinction rates have dramatically increased over the last few decades, Wake said.

The global amphibian extinction is a particularly bleak example of this drastic decline. In 2004, researchers found that nearly one-third of amphibian species are threatened, and many of the non-threatened species are on the wane.

Our own backyard provides a striking example, Wake said. He and his colleagues study amphibians in the Sierra Nevada, and the picture is grim there, as well.

"We have these great national parks here that are about as close as you can get to absolute preserves, and there have been really startling drops in amphibian populations there, too," Wake said.

Of the seven amphibian species that inhabit the peaks of the Sierra Nevada, five are threatened. Wake and his colleagues observed that, for two of these species, the Sierra Nevada Yellow-legged Frog and the Southern Yellow-legged Frog, populations over the last few years declined by 95 to 98 percent, even in highly protected areas such as Yosemite National Park. This means that each local frog population has dwindled to 2 to 5 percent of its former size. Originally, frogs living atop the highest, most remote peaks seemed to thrive, but recently, they also succumbed.

There are several frog killers in the Sierra Nevada, Wake said. The first hint of frog decline in this area came in the 1990s, and researchers originally thought that rainbow trout introduced to this area were the culprits - they like to snack on tadpoles and frog eggs. The UC Berkeley team did experiments in which it physically removed trout from some areas, and the result was that frog populations started to recover.

"But then they disappeared again, and this time there were carcasses," Wake said.

The culprit is a nasty pathogenic fungus that causes the disease chytridiomycosis. Researchers discovered the fungus in Sierra Nevada frogs in 2001. Scientists have documented over the last five years mass die-offs and population collapses due to the fungus in the mountain range.

But the fungus is not unique to California. It has been wiping out amphibians around the world, including in the tropics, where amphibian biodiversity is particularly high.

"It's been called the most devastating wildlife disease ever recorded," Wake said.

Global warming and habitat constriction are two other major killers of frogs around the world, Wake said. And the Sierra Nevada amphibians are also susceptible to poisonous winds carrying pesticides from Central Valley croplands. "The frogs have really been hit by a one-two punch," Wake said, "although it's more like a one-two-three-four punch."

The frogs are not the only victims in this mass extinction, Wake emphasized. Scientists studying other organisms have seen similarly dramatic effects.

"Our work needs to be seen in the context of all this other work, and the news is very, very grim," Wake said.


'/>"/>

Contact: Rachel Tompa
rmtompa@berkeley.edu
510-643-1331
University of California - Berkeley
Source:Eurekalert

Related biology news :

1. Studying component parts of living cells with carbon nanotube cellular probes
2. Jefferson urologists studying regenerated neo-bladder to help spinal cord injury patients
3. Researchers studying how singing bats communicate
4. Childrens Hospital studying drug with the potential to prevent/delay onset of type 1 diabetes
5. Jefferson scientists studying the effects of high-dose vitamin C on non-Hodgkin lymphoma patients
6. MIT applies engineering approach to studying biological pathways
7. Studying rivers for clues to global carbon cycle
8. Veterinary college researcher studying brain tumors in people and animals
9. Medical doctors who do research could be a dying breed
10. Sunbathing tree frogs future under a cloud
11. Indigenous water frogs under threat
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
(Date:6/20/2016)... DALLAS , June 20, 2016 ... criminal justice technology solutions for public safety, investigation, ... by the prisons involved, it has secured the ... Corrections (DOC) facilities for Managed Access Systems (MAS) ... (4) additional facilities to be installed by October, ...
(Date:6/15/2016)... New York , June 15, 2016 /PRNewswire/ ... a new market report titled "Gesture Recognition Market by ... and Forecast, 2016 - 2024". According to the report, ... USD 11.60 billion in 2015 and is estimated ... reach USD 48.56 billion by 2024.  ...
(Date:6/9/2016)... Finland , June 9, 2016 ... National Police deploy Teleste,s video security solution to ensure the ... France during the major tournament ... data communications systems and services, announced today that its video ... Prefecture to back up public safety across the ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:6/27/2016)... -- Liquid Biotech USA , Inc. ... Research Agreement with The University of Pennsylvania ("PENN") ... patients.  The funding will be used to assess ... outcomes in cancer patients undergoing a variety of ... to support the design of a therapeutic, decision-making ...
(Date:6/24/2016)... ... June 24, 2016 , ... While the majority of commercial spectrophotometers ... 5000 and the 6000i models are higher end machines that use the more unconventional ... spectrophotometer’s light beam from the bottom of the cuvette holder. , FireflySci has ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... 23, 2016   Boston Biomedical , an ... designed to target cancer stemness pathways, announced that ... Orphan Drug Designation from the U.S. Food and ... cancer, including gastroesophageal junction (GEJ) cancer. Napabucasin is ... inhibit cancer stemness pathways by targeting STAT3, and ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... ... June 23, 2016 , ... Charm Sciences, ... microbial test has received AOAC Research Institute approval 061601. , “This is another ... year,” stated Bob Salter, Vice President of Regulatory and Industrial Affairs. “The Peel ...
Breaking Biology Technology: