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News Article
Site: http://phys.org/biology-news/

"We are more encouraged by this response than any previous response to an amphibian emergency," said James Lewis, ASA's director of operations. "What we have seen here is an amazingly strong collaboration and open response from all stakeholders. We not only have the science community talking, but we also have the pet industry, private pet owners, policymakers, animal welfare advocates and the conservation community putting aside differences and coming together." It has been one year since scientists in Europe broke the news of their alarming discovery of the pathogen, Batrachocytrium salamandrivorans (Bsal), which is similar to a fungal pathogen that has devastated populations of frogs in the neotropics, Australia and the western United States. The story published today in PLOS Pathogens summarizes the swift action the conservation community has already taken to prevent the spread of Bsal in North America and lays out plans to respond swiftly if it does arrive. Some actions have included: Conservation organizations have also been calling for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) to put into place rules that would aid in preventing the fungal pathogen from reaching North America, but so far USFWS hasn't taken such action. "What we really need is to keep Bsal out of North America as long as possible, allowing us time to better understand this pathogen and how to address it," said Priya Nanjappa, amphibian and reptile conservation policy lead for the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies. "Unfortunately the policy tools are just not in place for swift action, even when urgency is required." "North America's diversity of salamander species truly makes this region of the natural world special," said Matthew Gray, professor of wildlife ecology at the University of Tennessee. "Salamanders provide society numerous benefits including use as educational tools, in carbon cycling, and even in shedding light on biomedical procedures." "Fifty percent of the 682 salamander species are only found in North America, and in some cases, although they may be cryptic and difficult to find, they make up a signiicant proportion of the biomass in forests" said Phil Bishop, Professor of Zoology at New Zealand's University of Otago and Chief Scientist for the Amphibian Survival Alliance. "In particular, Mexico and the Appalachian Mountains are collectively home to more than 100 species of lungless salamanders, which could be wiped out by this emerging disease." Explore further: Salamanders under threat from deadly skin-eating fungus

Jarvis L.E.,Epping Forest Field Center | Angulo A.,International Union for Conservation of Nature | Angulo A.,Conservation Fund | Catenazzi A.,Southern Illinois University Carbondale | And 4 more authors.
Tropical Conservation Science | Year: 2015

Peru supports approximately 588 amphibian species, of which 492 have been assessed on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Of these, 111 are classified as Threatened, with 69 species classified as Critically Endangered or Endangered. In addition, 140 amphibian species remain Data Deficient. We re-assessed the conservation status of 38 amphibian species originally identified as potentially Threatened by von May et al. (2008), using the IUCN Red List Categories and Criteria. Fourteen species assessments changed as a result of re-assessment, of which eight changed from Data Deficient to Threatened; two changed from Data Deficient to Near Threatened and Least Concern respectively; two were up-listed from Least Concern to a Threatened status; two were down-listed. None of the changes were due to a known genuine change since the previous assessment. All changes were justified by an increase in knowledge. The eight species with a change from Data Deficient to a Threatened category belonged to four anuran families: Craugastoridae, Dendrobatidae, Hemiphractidae and Telmatobiidae. The reasons for a change in assessment status were: changes in taxonomy, distribution, population status, threat status, or previously incorrect information. The main threat affecting re-assessed amphibian species was habitat loss, with other threats including pollution, disease outbreaks, and collection for the pet trade. Only 53% of the re-assessed species were found to occur in a protected area. Findings of this study indicate the continuing fragility of many Peruvian amphibians and highlight the need for improving their protection and for further research into their population status and threats. © Laurence E. Jarvis, Ariadne Angulo, Alessandro Catenazzi, Rudolf von May, Jason L. Brown, Edgar Lehr and James Lewis. Source

Arbelaez-Cortes E.,National Autonomous University of Mexico | Navarro-Siguenza A.G.,National Autonomous University of Mexico | Garcia-Moreno J.,Amphibian Survival Alliance
Zoologica Scripta | Year: 2012

Phylogeny of woodcreepers of the genus Lepidocolaptes (Aves, Furnariidae), a widespread Neotropical taxon. The phylogeny of the genus Lepidocolaptes was reconstructed based on three mitochondrial DNA regions and one nuclear DNA intron, using Bayesian analysis. A general pattern of diversification among the lowland species followed by the diversification of highland species, and a close relationship among montane species with the two Atlantic Forest endemics, seem to depict the history of this genus. Results also showed that the two Mesoamerican species are sister-taxa with high support. Finally, our data also suggest the existence of previously unknown intraspecific genetic structure within some taxa, especially among populations of Lepidocolaptes souleyetii. © 2012 The Authors. Zoologica Scripta © 2012 The Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters. Source

Hernandez-Banos B.E.,National Autonomous University of Mexico | Zamudio-Beltran L.E.,National Autonomous University of Mexico | Eguiarte-Fruns L.E.,National Autonomous University of Mexico | Klicka J.,University of Washington | Garcia-Moreno J.,Amphibian Survival Alliance
Revista Mexicana de Biodiversidad | Year: 2014

Hummingbirds are one of the most diverse families of birds and the phylogenetic relationships within the group have recently begun to be studied with molecular data. Most of these studies have focused on the higher level classification within the family, and now it is necessary to study the relationships between and within genera using a similar approach. Here, we investigated the taxonomic status of the genus Hylocharis, a member of the Emeralds complex, whose relationships with other genera are unclear; we also investigated the existence of the Basilinna genus. We obtained sequences of mitochondrial (ND2: 537 bp) and nuclear genes (AK-5 intron: 535 bp, and c-mos: 572 bp) for 6 of the 8 currently recognized species and outgroups. Our analyses, using 3 different inference methods (Maximun Parsimony, Likelihood and Bayesian methods), corroborate the existence of the hummingbird genus Basilinna as composed of 2 species commonly assigned to the genus Hylocharis: leucotis and xantusii. Our study also supports that Hylocharis is a paraphyletic genus that includes species belonging to the genus Amazilia. © 2014, Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico. All rights reserved. Source

News Article
Site: http://www.biosciencetechnology.com/rss-feeds/all/rss.xml/all

For more than a century, two mysterious tree frog specimens collected by a British naturalist in 1870 and housed at the Natural History Museum in London were assumed to be part of a vanished species, never again found in the wild. Until now. A group of scientists, led by renowned Indian biologist Sathyabhama Das Biju, has rediscovered the frogs and also identified them as part of a new genus - one step higher than a species on the taxonomic ranking. Not only have they found the frogs in abundance in northeast Indian jungles, they believe they could also be living across a wide swathe of Asia from China to Thailand. "This is an exciting find, but it doesn't mean the frogs are safe," Biju said, adding that he hopes the discovery leads to more awareness of the dangers of unfettered development to the animals. The frogs were found at high altitudes in four northeast Indian states, underlining the rain-soaked region's role as a biodiversity hotspot. Some of the forest areas where Biju's team collected frogs in 2007 and 2008 were already slashed and burned by 2014 for agricultural development. The region's tropical forests are quickly disappearing because of programs to cut trees, plant rice, expand human settlements and build roads. Industrial growth amid a decade-long economic boom has also increased pollution, to which frogs are particularly vulnerable. That same sensitivity to climate and water quality makes them perfect environmental barometers, putting them at risk when ecological systems go awry. Of the more than 7,000 amphibian species known globally, about 32 percent are threatened with extinction, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature. "This frog is facing extreme stress in these areas, and could be pushed to extinction simply from habitat loss," Biju said. "We're lucky in a way to have found it before that happens, but we're all worried." Finding the frogs was an accident. The team had been searching the forest floor for other amphibians in 2007 when, one night, "we heard a full musical orchestra coming from the treetops. It was magical. Of course we had to investigate," Biju said. For the study of the new frog genus, Frankixalus, published Wednesday by the Public Library of Science journal PLOS ONE, Biju and his doctoral students teamed up with researchers from the central Indian state of Pune, Sri Lanka, Brussels and the American Museum of Natural History. They looked at the frogs' behavior, collected specimens and described their outer appearance and skeletal features. But it wasn't until they had sequenced the frogs' genetic code that they confirmed it as a new genus, and surprisingly found another DNA match from a single tadpole specimen reported recently under a mistaken identity in China. The frogs had long been considered lost to science, with the first - and only - previously known specimens collected in 1870 by British naturalist T.C. Jerdon in the forests of Darjeeling. Over decades, the frogs were reclassified at least four times in cases of incorrect identity as scientists drew conclusions from their enlarged snouts or the webbing between their toes. Biju believes the frogs remained hidden from science so long because of their secretive lifestyle living in tree holes at heights up to 6 meters (20 feet) above ground. Most tree frogs live in shrubs or tree holes closer to the ground. But other experts suggest that, while the uniquely high habitat does make them hard to find, the frogs probably remained in obscurity simply because there are so few scientists working in the remote region. "This part of Southeast Asia, in particular, is poorly inventoried," said James Hanken, a biology professor and director of the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard University. Given the habitat threats and alarming rate of extinctions worldwide, he said the "remarkable" tree frog find "points out that we may be losing even more species than we know or can fully document." "It doesn't in any way offset the tragic losses represented by global amphibian extinction," said Hanken, who was not involved in the tree frog study. Biju's team named the new frog genus Frankixalus after herpetologist Franky Bossuyt, who was Biju's adviser when he was a student at the Vrije Universiteit in Brussels. Only two species within the genus have been identified, including the Frankixalus jeronii first described in the 19th century. The scientists are still trying to confirm whether a second collected species was mistakenly named within another genus of tree frogs. There are now 18 tree frog genera known worldwide. The study documents the tree frogs' unusual maternal behavior, with the females laying fertilized eggs in a tree hole filled with water, and then returning at regular intervals after the tadpoles hatch to feed them with unfertilized eggs. "This is incredible," Biju said, excitedly dumping a pile of pickled tadpoles onto a glass-covered table in his office at the University of Delhi, and selecting one to place under a microscope. The magnification reveals a clutch of undigested eggs still inside the tadpole's belly. "Do you see these eggs? Just imagine, the mother is coming back over and over and dropping these eggs for her babies to eat." Rather than nascent teeth, the tadpoles have smooth, suction-like mouths to pull in the eggs. Their eyes are positioned on the top of their heads, rather than on the sides. Biju suggested the feature may help the tadpoles see eggs being dropped by mother frogs into the hole during feeding time. Fully grown, the frogs are about as big as a golf ball. Uniquely, they feed mostly on vegetation, rather than insects and larvae. "Frogs have been around for 350 million years, and have evolved to face so many habitat challenges," said Biju, who is known in India by the nickname "The Frog Man" and has discovered 89 of the 350 or so frog species known to be in the country. Scientists said the work was crucial for both understanding the planet's biological diversity and raising awareness about the need for conservation. Already, Australia has seen the extinction of one frog species that brooded tadpoles in its stomach, while Central America recently lost its brightly colored golden toad. "Species discoveries and rediscoveries ... can bring excitement and focus to animals like amphibians that, despite being the most threatened vertebrate group, are underrepresented in the media and scientific literature," said herpetologist Robin Moore, co-founder of the Washington, D.C.-based Amphibian Survival Alliance. "Wonder and inspiration tend to be more powerful motivators than despair."

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