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Amphibian Crisis

  • Published
    7th Oct, 2023
Context:

According to a new global assessment, 41% of species of the Earth’s amphibians are now threatened with extinction.

Key-highlights of the Report

  • Amphibians are in the worst shape among the vertebrates - with 27% of mammals, 21% of reptilesand 13% of birds found to be threatened with extinction in separate assessments.
  • The state of the world's amphibians is more dire now than at the time of the first such assessment in 2004, when 39% of species were threatened, according to updated data for that period.
  • The researchers identified four amphibian species - a frog from Australia, a frog from Guatemala, a salamander from Guatemala and a toad from Costa Rica - that have disappeared since 2004. They also listed 185 species as "possibly extinct," with no known surviving population.
  • The heaviest concentrations of threatened amphibians were found to be in the Caribbean islands, Mexico and Central America, the tropical Andes region, India, Sri Lanka, Cameroon, Nigeria and Madagascar.
  • Who is to be blamed? Human activities and climate change.
    • Habitat destruction and degradation
    • Increasing disease (fungal pathogen that causes the disease chytridiomycosis)

Finding a species to be threatened with extinction means it has been evaluated as "critically endangered," "endangered" or "vulnerable" on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) "red list" of threatened species, the global authority on wildlife extinction risk.

Who are Amphibians?

  • Amphibians are vertebrates that require water to survive, are cold-blooded, and spend time both on land and in water. 

There are 447 amphibian species in India and over 5000 across the globe and approx 90% of them are frogs. 

  • Amphibians first appeared more than 300 million years ago.
  • They are made up of frogs, toads, salamanders, newts, and caecilians (wormlike animals with poorly developed eyes). 
  • Three orders of amphibians exist today:
    • Salamanders and newts (60% threatened with extinction)
    • Frogs and toads (39%)
    • Limbless and serpentine caecilians (16%)
  • Since 2004, 306 species have crept closer to extinction.
  • Susceptibility (to threats): They are extremely susceptible to environmental threats because of their porous eggs and semipermeable skin. Every major threat, from climate changeto pollution to disease, affects amphibians and has put them at serious risk.
  • Important features:
    • Cold-blooded
    • Ectothermic
    • Soft, absorbent skin (that needs to be kept moist)

Earth’s sixth mass extinction

  • Amphibian declines are in line with a larger global biodiversity crisis.
  • More than a million plant and animal species are currently threatened with extinction, suggeststhe Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), marking what many call Earth’s sixth mass extinction.


Why do they matter?

Amphibians - frogs, toads, salamanders - are a critical part of nature as both predator and prey.

  • Balanced food chain: They eat insect pests which is a benefit to agriculture and help control mosquitos which benefits human health. Amphibians are also an important part of the food chain, providing food resources for numerous animals from snakes to raptors.
  • Medical value: They are also important from a medical point of view. The skin of amphibians contains different types of peptides and offers the possibility of medical cures for several human diseases.
  • Vital ecological indicators: Due to a high degree of sensitivity, they are studied and indicate habitat fragmentation, ecosystem stress, the impact of pesticides, and various anthropogenic activities
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