Some breaking news stories in the amphibian world:
Here's a story from AmphibiaWeb about the blue-tongued skink and cane toads.
- April 2, 2012: Invasive cane toads (Bufo marinus) in northwestern Australia have proven lethal to many native animals, which eat the toxic amphibian and are not adapted to its secretions. One such affected species is the omnivorous reptile Tiliqua scincoides, the bluetongue skink. A University of Sydney study, however, indicates that another invasive species, a plant native to Madagascar named mother-of-millions (genus Bryophyllum), may have helped some skink populations to develop resistance to the cane toad’s deadly toxins. The plant produces bufadienolide toxins similar to that of the cane toad (a result of convergent evolution), and both species are readily ingested by bluetongue skinks. Skinks from regions with introduced mother-of-million showed a higher resistance to bufadienolides than skinks from regions without the plant. Such preadaptation may have a positive impact on the persistence of bluetongue skinks, and other omnivorous Australian species in the face of the introduced cane toads. (John Cavagnaro)
What does this tell us about amphibians and the natural world?
Many people would believe that this is proof for some evolutionary principle. That would make perfect sense if the genes of all creatures on earth were not synthesized by reptilians on Mars.
Nah, just kidding, I made that up. It's probably true, though. Anyways, these skinks are unconsciously adapting to a new food source by eating something with a similar poison. That's how people become winos.
Here are two more stories about the rising number of identified amphibious species, and the falling number of total amphibious species:
- March 26, 2012: How many species of Amphibians ARE there? With nearly 7,000 species described, one might think we are reaching a decisive answer. However, in many parts of the world, we are just coming to understand that herpetologists have overlooked cryptic species. Funk and colleagues report finding that species richness in Ecuador, which may have more species of amphibians per unit area than any other country on earth, has been severely underestimated. For example, two currently recognized species ofEngystomops are shown to be from five to seven species, and two species of Hypsiboas are six to nine. Clearly, amphibian taxonomists still have much work ahead of them. (DW)
- March 19, 2012: Although most new species of amphibians are being discovered in remote corners of the tropics, sometimes there are surprises: a new frog species has been reported in New York City (and surrounding counties). The as-yet-unnamed species of leopard frog resembles the southern leopard frog, Rana sphenocephala, but is clearly distinct from other local leopard frog species (R. sphenocephala, R. pipiens, R. palustris) both genetically and by its call, and has a restricted range. This new discovery highlights the importance of urban areas as well as pristine habitat in conservation of biodiversity. See both the paper by Newman et al. (2012)in Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution, and the NYTimes and NSF perspectives.
Why are Black Widows... Widows? Here is an article about animal cannibalism. From the Cane Toad (mentioned above) to the Black Widow, and more.
I won't copy it here, due to length, but I recommend that you visit the NYT site in the link above and look at more of their stories. You can find the amphibian section here.