Amphibian news round-up December 2016

by Jeff Dawson - December 21, 2016

rana-sierrae-gary-nafisNew amphibian species are being discovered and described all the time. In 2016 98 new species from the Americas, Asia, Africa and Oceania were formally described bringing the total number of amphibian species to 7,605. The majority of new discoveries are anurans (frogs and toads), which isn’t surprising as over 88% of all known amphibian species are anurans but among this year’s discoveries from the mountains of Oaxaca, Mexico were 3 minute Thorius salamanders – measuring less than 3cm in length (read here).

It is not just remote areas however that yield new discoveries though with a new species of frog, Mahony’s toadlet (Uperolia mahonyi) discovered in a swamp just 6 miles from Newcastle airport, New South Wales, Australia (read here). Despite just being described all four of these species are recommended as being either Endangered or Critically Endangered, reflecting the wider plight of amphibians which is the reason for our SAFE programme.

It is not all bad news for amphibians though. A 20 year study has reported that the Endangered Sierra Nevada yellow-legged frog (Rana sierra) has undergone a seven fold increase in numbers throughout Yosemite National Park. This is thought to be due to a reduction in the number of predatory trout in the lakes (which were widely introduced for fishing during the late 1800’s and early 1900’s) and possible evolutionary and immunological changes in frog’s response to Bd chytrid reducing their susceptibility to the disease.  The study highlights that where habitat is relatively intact and stressor’s – such as predators and disease are reduced – then amphibian declines may be reversible. (story and find paper here)

Photo: Sierra Nevada yellow-legged frog Rana sierrae. Photo: Gary Nafis