Alarm over vanishing frogs

2013-04-11 12:15
Helen's Flying Frog (Jodi Rowley, AFP)

Helen's Flying Frog (Jodi Rowley, AFP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Patillas - A curtain of sound envelops the two researchers as they make their way along the side of a mountain in darkness, occasionally hacking their way with a machete to reach the mouth of a small cave.

Peeps, tweets and staccato whistles fill the air, a pulsing undercurrent in the tropical night. To the untrained ear, it's just a mishmash of noise. To experts tracking a decline in amphibians with growing alarm, it's like a symphony in which some of the players haven't been showing up.

In parts of Puerto Rico, for example, there are places where researchers used to hear four species at once and they are now hearing one or two, a subtle but important change.

"You are not hearing what you were before," said Alberto Lopez, part of a husband-and-wife team of biologists trying to gauge the health of frogs on the island.

Scientists report that many types of amphibians, especially frogs, are in a steep global decline likely caused by a mix of habitat loss, climate change, pollution and a virulent fungus. The downward spiral is striking particularly hard in the Caribbean, where a majority of species are now losing a fragile hold in the ecosystem.

Evidence

Without new conservation measures, there could be a massive die-off of Caribbean frogs within 15 years, warned Adrell Nunez, an amphibian expert with the Santo Domingo Zoo in the Dominican Republic.

"There are species that we literally know nothing about" that could be lost, he said.

Researchers such as Lopez and his wife, Ana Longo Berrios, have been fanning out across the Caribbean and returning with new and troubling evidence of the decline.

In some places, especially in Haiti, where severe deforestation is added to the mix of problems, extinctions are possible.

It is part of a grim picture overall. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature has found that 32% of the world's amphibian species are threatened or extinct, including more than 200 alone in both Mexico and Colombia.

"Everywhere we are seeing declines and it's severe," said Jan Zegarra, a biologist based in Puerto Rico for the US Fish and Wildlife Service.

Frogs may be less charismatic than some other troubled species, but their role in the environment is important. They are consumed by birds and snakes and they in turn are major predators of mosquitoes. Their absence could lead to a rise in malaria and dengue, not to mention discomfort.

Frogs, which breathe and process toxins through their skin, are considered a promising area for pharmaceutical research and a bio-indicator that can tell scientists about what's going on in the environment.

"We are just starting to understand the ripple down effects and the repercussions of losing amphibians," said Jamie Voyles, a biologist at New Mexico Tech in Albuquerque and one of the principal investigators of Project Atelopus, an effort to study and protect frogs of an endangered genus in Panama.
Read more on:    environment  |  marine life

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
1 comment
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

 
/News

Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.




Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.