Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Salamander Losses in Mexico, Guatemala Cause Worry

Many salamander species in Mexico and Guatemala have suffered dramatic population declines since the 1970s, driven to the brink probably by a warming climate and other factors, U.S. scientists said on Monday.

The salamanders' fate provides the latest evidence of striking losses among the world's amphibians, a phenomenon some experts see as a harbinger of doom for many types of animals.

Biologist David Wake of the University of California Berkeley and colleagues tracked about two dozen species of salamanders at several sites in Guatemala and southern Mexico.

They put a special emphasis on the San Marcos region of Guatemala, boasting one of the most thoroughly studied and diverse salamander populations in the tropics.

Compared to levels measured in the 1970s, the population of half of the species in the two countries declined markedly. Four species were apparently completely gone and a fifth virtually wiped out, Wake said.

The cause is probably a complex combination of factors including climate change -- with warming temperatures forcing salamanders to higher and less hospitable elevations -- as well as habitat destruction and a fungal disease, Wake said.

"We have documented what has long been feared -- that tropical salamanders are being hit hard by something and are disappearing," Wake, whose findings appear in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, said in a telephone interview.

See rest of the story here: Reuters

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