- What animal uses the help of its eyeballs to swallow its prey?
- What animal has enough poison in it to kill 90 humans?
- Which animal smells like peanut butter?
- See "Notes" for answers
Each of these animals belongs to a class of vertebrates most threatened with extinction or dying out today. Amphibians are animals that live on land, in water, and mostly in moist, swampy, wet places. They include frogs, toads, newts, and salamanders. Over the last few decades, there has been a dramatic decline in amphibian numbers all across the world.
Why are they disappearing?
A fungal disease carried by water and drainage of swamps (habitat loss) has contributed to this sudden decline in amphibian numbers. Unfortunately, many species may have gone over the brink: extinct. Amphibians breathe through their skin, which needs to remain clean, moist, and cool. This is why a fungal skin disease that is waterborne can affect them so adversely. The decline of several species does not bode well for the health of the ecosystem for among other functions, amphibians perform a very important role in the ecosystem – that of pest control.
The big frog hunt
This made Conservation International (CI) launch a worldwide hunt for frogs that have not been seen for a while. 10 species of amphibia are on the “Most Wanted – ALIVE" list! Among them are the golden toad last seen in Costa Rica in 1989, the gastric-brooding frog (these frogs incubate the eggs in their stomachs and the tadpoles - when ready - come out of the frog's mouth) last seen in Australia in 1985, and the Mesopotamia beaked toad – not seen since 1914 when it was spotted in Colombia. Another top 10 member - the African painted frog which has gone missing since 1950 from the African countries of Congo and Rwanda, may never have been photographed!
CI’s hunt for the missing amphibians extends through October 2010 and across 18 countries in Asia, Latin America, and Africa. Even if the search team returns with none of the 40 or so species they are looking for, scientists are at least hoping to better understand the perils amphibians face and that itself might help stop further extinctions.