Amphibian Topics For Essays

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Amphibian means “double life” referring to the fact that most adult amphibians live on land while embryos need water to survive. Some amphibians have been around since the Jurassic age; however the numbers of these long alive animals are declining around the world (Amphibia). As of 2010, 32% of the world’s 6600 amphibian species were threatened with extinction (Hayes, Falso, Gallipeau, Stice 2010). There is no single cause of the amphibian decline, but it seems that habitat loss, like deforestation, is the main reason along with human impact in terms of urbanization, forest fragmentation, predation, human exploitation, pathogens and climate change (Hayes, Falso, Gallipeau, Stice 2010). The climate is decreasing amphibians because of the…show more content…

Countries that have accumulated information about their own amphibian decline are Brazil, Puerto Rico, Europe and the United States. Brazil’s decline began in 1980’s and is due to habitat destruction by deforestation, but also the prevalence of pathological chytrid fungi. Other factors are water pollution and contamination from chemicals, climate change, invasive species and ultraviolet radiation. Most reports of declines come from one of the world’s biodiversity hotspots, the Atlantic Forest in Brazil. There are reports of declines and disappearances for 30 species in the Atlantic Forest. In 1989 Threatened Species List only included 1 amphibian species and in 2002 the Threatened Species List included 15 Amphibians species, which is a sharp increase in the decline of amphibians. The GAA (Global Amphibian Assessment) suggests measures for amphibian conservation in South America including the importance of strict habitat protection, captive breeding, education about the environment, infectious disease research and problems that are causing amphibian decline by looking at individual species (Silvano and Segalla 2005). From 1970-1999 in Eastern Puerto Rico major extinctions and declines occurred in Luquillo Mountains, which are very high in elevation. This is due to the inability to cope with habitat fragmentation, the natural fluctuations on a population, the mature forests, environmental changes such as UV-B rays, and

Like the 18th-century German naturalist August Johann Rösel von Rosenhof, whose beautifully illustrated Historia naturalis ranarum nostratium (Natural history of the native frogs) he describes in an essay in Natural Histories: Extraordinary Rare Book Selections from the American Museum of Natural History Library, Curator Darrel R. Frost has created a comprehensive reference about amphibians.


Dr. Frost’s, however, is a decidedly 21st-century endeavor. He manages Amphibian Species of the World, an online database and classification system for about 7,000 amphibian species, of which about 6,200 are frogs.

The database lists all scientific and English names, and their synonyms, for each species; it also references not only the papers in which each name was introduced, but also all the literature that has allowed scientists to construct the amphibian tree of life. Species in the database have as many as 50 names coined by different researchers at different times.

For example, the common toad (widespread in Europe), Bufo bufo, has 53 Latin synonyms—with references dating from 1554 to 2010—and four English names. The list of synonyms, presented in the order that they were introduced, is a “nomenclatural history” for each species, Frost says.


A couple of Bufo bufo, the common toad, during migration

The database also has an important role in conservation efforts. Launched as a print publication in the 1980s, it has helped the implementation of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), which today lists 131 amphibians as regulated species. The current database serves as a dictionary for species names so that regulators of wildlife trade can “speak the same language,” says Frost.

Learn more Dr. Frost's work in the video below.


Edited by Tom Baione, the Museum's Library Director, Natural Histories: Extraordinary Rare Book Selections from the American Museum of Natural History Library (Sterling Signature) showcases 40 essays about spectacular holdings from the Rare Book Collection.

A version of this article, and an excerpt from Dr. Frost's essay, appeared in the Winter issue of Rotunda, the Member magazine.

For more information about joining the Museum, click here.

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