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      The interplay of past diversification and evolutionary isolation with present imperilment across the amphibian tree of life

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      Nature Ecology & Evolution
      Springer Nature

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          Colloquium paper: are we in the midst of the sixth mass extinction? A view from the world of amphibians.

          Many scientists argue that we are either entering or in the midst of the sixth great mass extinction. Intense human pressure, both direct and indirect, is having profound effects on natural environments. The amphibians--frogs, salamanders, and caecilians--may be the only major group currently at risk globally. A detailed worldwide assessment and subsequent updates show that one-third or more of the 6,300 species are threatened with extinction. This trend is likely to accelerate because most amphibians occur in the tropics and have small geographic ranges that make them susceptible to extinction. The increasing pressure from habitat destruction and climate change is likely to have major impacts on narrowly adapted and distributed species. We show that salamanders on tropical mountains are particularly at risk. A new and significant threat to amphibians is a virulent, emerging infectious disease, chytridiomycosis, which appears to be globally distributed, and its effects may be exacerbated by global warming. This disease, which is caused by a fungal pathogen and implicated in serious declines and extinctions of >200 species of amphibians, poses the greatest threat to biodiversity of any known disease. Our data for frogs in the Sierra Nevada of California show that the fungus is having a devastating impact on native species, already weakened by the effects of pollution and introduced predators. A general message from amphibians is that we may have little time to stave off a potential mass extinction.
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            Vast underestimation of Madagascar's biodiversity evidenced by an integrative amphibian inventory.

            Amphibians are in decline worldwide. However, their patterns of diversity, especially in the tropics, are not well understood, mainly because of incomplete information on taxonomy and distribution. We assess morphological, bioacoustic, and genetic variation of Madagascar's amphibians, one of the first near-complete taxon samplings from a biodiversity hotspot. Based on DNA sequences of 2,850 specimens sampled from over 170 localities, our analyses reveal an extreme proportion of amphibian diversity, projecting an almost 2-fold increase in species numbers from the currently described 244 species to a minimum of 373 and up to 465. This diversity is widespread geographically and across most major phylogenetic lineages except in a few previously well-studied genera, and is not restricted to morphologically cryptic clades. We classify the genealogical lineages in confirmed and unconfirmed candidate species or deeply divergent conspecific lineages based on concordance of genetic divergences with other characters. This integrative approach may be widely applicable to improve estimates of organismal diversity. Our results suggest that in Madagascar the spatial pattern of amphibian richness and endemism must be revisited, and current habitat destruction may be affecting more species than previously thought, in amphibians as well as in other animal groups. This case study suggests that worldwide tropical amphibian diversity is probably underestimated at an unprecedented level and stresses the need for integrated taxonomic surveys as a basis for prioritizing conservation efforts within biodiversity hotspots.
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              Quantitative evidence for global amphibian population declines.

              Although there is growing concern that amphibian populations are declining globally, much of the supporting evidence is either anecdotal or derived from short-term studies at small geographical scales. This raises questions not only about the difficulty of detecting temporal trends in populations which are notoriously variable, but also about the validity of inferring global trends from local or regional studies. Here we use data from 936 populations to assess large-scale temporal and spatial variations in amphibian population trends. On a global scale, our results indicate relatively rapid declines from the late 1950s/early 1960s to the late 1960s, followed by a reduced rate of decline to the present. Amphibian population trends during the 1960s were negative in western Europe (including the United Kingdom) and North America, but only the latter populations showed declines from the 1970s to the late 1990s. These results suggest that while large-scale trends show considerable geographical and temporal variability, amphibian populations are in fact declining--and that this decline has been happening for several decades.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                Nature Ecology & Evolution
                Nat Ecol Evol
                Springer Nature
                2397-334X
                March 26 2018
                :
                :
                Article
                10.1038/s41559-018-0515-5
                7ef1590b-0841-42a0-8fc2-eb9eb6177f3d
                © 2018

                http://www.springer.com/tdm


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