Amphibian Decline – New Species

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ambience: grey tree frogs

Back in 1989, scientists came to the conclusion that the populations of earth’s amphibians were in decline, and they set out to take stock of their numbers. And yet today, even as frogs and salamanders continue to disappear at an alarming rate, field biologists are discovering new species — faster than they can be officially named. I’m Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet. Dr. James Hanken is a Professor of Zoology at Harvard University’s Museum of Comparative Zoology.

“There’s quite a delay in the time between when you actually discover a new species, and when it’s published. So I now know of 15, 20, 30 more undescribed species of salamanders awaiting names. There’s just not enough professionally trained people these days to do the work.”

Over the past decade, herpetologists have been surprised to find that amphibian diversity is much greater than was once believed. They’re discovering as many as 10 new species each week – and they’re finding them just about everywhere – on distant field trips, and closer to home.

“When one thinks of discovering new species these days, one usually thinks of very exotic, hard to reach places in the tropics. But just last year, or the year before last, a new species of salamander was described from within 30 miles of downtown Los Angeles, in the mountains in California. To me this is what biology is all about — is discovering the unknown — and it’s very exciting. We tend to assume that certainly terrestrial vertebrates are all named and known. And in fact that is not the case. These days we’re taking one or two trips a year and every trip we are finding new species still.”

But despite the number of new species being identified each year, Dr Hanken says that conditions for amphibians worldwide continue to decline — as their habitat is destroyed for development, and new diseases spread quickly through their populations.

Pulse of the Planet is presented with support provided by the National Science Foundation.

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Amphibian Decline - New Species

Scientists are discovering new species of amphibians worldwide while the global populations of these creatures dwindle.
Air Date:02/28/2002
Scientist:
Transcript:

music
ambience: grey tree frogs

Back in 1989, scientists came to the conclusion that the populations of earth's amphibians were in decline, and they set out to take stock of their numbers. And yet today, even as frogs and salamanders continue to disappear at an alarming rate, field biologists are discovering new species -- faster than they can be officially named. I'm Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet. Dr. James Hanken is a Professor of Zoology at Harvard University's Museum of Comparative Zoology.

"There's quite a delay in the time between when you actually discover a new species, and when it's published. So I now know of 15, 20, 30 more undescribed species of salamanders awaiting names. There's just not enough professionally trained people these days to do the work."

Over the past decade, herpetologists have been surprised to find that amphibian diversity is much greater than was once believed. They're discovering as many as 10 new species each week - and they're finding them just about everywhere - on distant field trips, and closer to home.

"When one thinks of discovering new species these days, one usually thinks of very exotic, hard to reach places in the tropics. But just last year, or the year before last, a new species of salamander was described from within 30 miles of downtown Los Angeles, in the mountains in California. To me this is what biology is all about -- is discovering the unknown -- and it's very exciting. We tend to assume that certainly terrestrial vertebrates are all named and known. And in fact that is not the case. These days we're taking one or two trips a year and every trip we are finding new species still."

But despite the number of new species being identified each year, Dr Hanken says that conditions for amphibians worldwide continue to decline -- as their habitat is destroyed for development, and new diseases spread quickly through their populations.

Pulse of the Planet is presented with support provided by the National Science Foundation.

music