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Archive for April 18th, 2007

Endangered frog may fall victim to drought

Posted by Miqe on April 18, 2007

The Booroolong tree frog.The Booroolong tree frog.

VICTORIA’S critically endangered Booroolong tree frog risks becoming the latest casualty of the drought, which has dried up the frog’s habitat near the Murray River for the first time.

With the frog already in decline in NSW, there are fears it will die out in the Burrowye and Guys Forest creeks in north-east Victoria, 100 kilometres east of Wodonga.

Although the tree frog species has managed to survive extensive clearing of its habitat and introduced species such as the carp and mosquito fish, which prey on its eggs and tadpoles, the two creeks it inhabits have fallen to unprecedented levels.

The species’ future isn’t helped by the fact that males die after one season. Many were unable to breed this year as the creeks had only small pools left. A captive-breeding program has been set up at the Amphibian Research Centre in Werribee in a frantic bid to save the species.

Booroolong tree frog numbers have already dropped due to chytridomycosis, a worldwide disease wiping out frog populations that has left 35 eastern Australian species extinct or in severe decline.

The amphibian fungal disease is believed to have been spread globally as a result of African clawed frogs being exported for use in human pregnancy tests up until the 1960s.

The Department of Sustainability and Environment’s Wodonga senior flora and fauna planner, Glen Johnson, said frog deaths were often the first indicator of serious environmental problems.

From The Age

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Group assists snake service: Rural/Metro removes 100 per year

Posted by Miqe on April 18, 2007

Snake season begins this month and fire officials remind residents that Phoenix Fire Department does not respond to snake removal reports.

Town residents reported more than 100 snakes annually for the past two years, but the Phoenix Fire Department — the new Paradise Valley fire service provider — does not offer snake removal service.

The municipality will not respond when residents spot a slithery reptile because the department is not properly trained in that area, said Phoenix fire spokeswoman Michelle Miller.

“We have so much response to large scale emergencies that we can’t dedicate enough training to that,” Ms. Miller said.

However, the department will respond to a call if a person is bit by a snake, she added.

Paradise Valley entered an agreement with Phoenix Fire Department to begin serving the town July 1, thus ending the subscription-based relationship with Rural/Metro. The town will cover the annual costs in the agreement.

In Paradise Valley, Rural/Metro responds to snake removal calls frequently, said Rural/Metro spokeswoman Alison Cooper.

“As it starts to warm up, they become pretty active,” she said.

In 2006, the department responded to 106 snake removals within town borders. The year before, Rural/Metro removed 110 snakes.

The fire department does not track what types of snakes are removed but usually they are relocated, unless the same one keeps appearing at a home, she said.

“It’s very rare that we euthanize a snake and the only ones euthanized are rattlesnakes,” Ms. Cooper said.

Ms. Miller said Phoenix refers snake removal calls to the Arizona Herpetological Association, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the conservation, study and understanding of reptiles and amphibians.

The association offers the public a snake and reptile removal service that is run by volunteers for $40, said President Mark Guidotto. For removals, call 480-894-1625.

Mr. Guidotto said the Herpetological Association responds to hundred of snake removal calls a year, mainly in developing areas in the outskirts of the Valley, like Desert Ridge and North Scottsdale.

Because of Paradise Valley’s rural-like town layout and proximity to Mummy and Camelback mountains, Mr. Guidotto expects the volunteers will get a lot of calls once the new fire agreement is in place.

From newszap

Posted in Herps in the news, International articles and news. | 1 Comment »

‘Fewer leaves’ behind frog demise

Posted by Miqe on April 18, 2007

A decline in the amount of leaves on the ground could be behind the rapid demise of frog species, a study of a rainforest in Costa Rica has suggested. Until now, the prime suspect for the amphibians’ population crash was a deadly fungal infection.

By studying data over a 35-year period, researchers found that lizards, which were not susceptible to the infection, had also declined by a similar rate.

The study appears in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

Writing in the paper, the team said the global decline of amphibian populations ranked “among the most critical issues in conservation biology”.

Of particular concern, the scientists wrote, were “enigmatic” declines – where there had been a rapid fall in species populations but no obvious human cause, such as the destruction of habitat.

One of the prime suspects for the enigmatic decline of frogs was chytrid fungus (Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis), deadly to amphibians.

A paper, published in the journal Nature last January, looked at biodiversity hotspots in Central and South Amercia and found that changes to the local climate had created perfect conditions for the spread of the frog-killing fungus.

Lack of litter

But the PNAS paper found another potential culprit – the lack of leaf-litter on the forest floor.


Amphibians on a leaf (Conservation International)

Group includes frogs, toads, salamanders and caecilians

First true amphibians evolved about 250m years ago

Adapted to many different aquatic and terrestrial habitats

Present today on every continent except Antarctica

Undergo metamorphosis, from larvae to adults

The international team of scientists examined data of amphibian and common reptile populations in La Selva, a protected area of rainforest in Costa Rica.

Between 1970 and 2005, the data showed that the number of amphibians had declined by about 75%, which supported the idea that frogs were being wiped out by the chytrid fungus.

However, the data also showed a similar fall in the area’s reptiles, which were not susceptible to the fungus.

Over the same period, the data showed that there had been a 75% reduction in the density of leaves falling to the ground from the rainforest’s canopy.

Leaf litter provides a vital habitat, offering food and shelter, for the amphibians and lizards.

The team, from Florida International University, the University of Costa Rica and San Diego State University, suggested shifts in the area’s climate had led to a decline in the habitat needed to sustain the creatures.

“The increasingly warm and wet conditions of the past two decades could negatively influence standing litter mass by affecting rates of litterfall or litter decomposition,” the authors wrote.

This is a very interesting set of work that points out the complicated nature of species decline

Dr Paul Pearce-Kelly,
Zoological Society of London

Dr Paul Pearce-Kelly, a senior curator at the Zoological Society of London, said the findings made an important contribution towards understanding what was behind the decline of the world’s frog populations.

“This is a very interesting set of work that points out the complicated nature of species decline,” he said.

“We shouldn’t forget that any kind of change affecting one species can leave it weakened and predeposed to being more vulnerable to disease and other impacts.

“The environment, regardless of whether it is a protected forest system or not, is highly vulnerable to temperature changes.”

From BBC

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