My name’s Darren Naish: my technical training is in vertebrate palaeontology (I actually specialise on the study of Lower Cretaceous predatory dinosaurs), but I’m interested in all tetrapods (tetrapods are those vertebrates that have four limbs, or descend from ancestors that had them) and have written about members of most groups at my blog Tetrapod Zoology. And among my favourite tetrapods are the amphibians. Amphibians are often regarded as uncharismatic and mundane, but nothing could be further from the truth: they are radically strange, often bizarre, and always fascinating, and at a time when they’re declining and in desperate need of global conservation efforts, we need to do as much as we can to promote their diversity, their amazing biology, why they’re in trouble, and what we can do about it. EDGE species are often the strangest and most remarkable members of their groups and also, sadly, the ones most in need of conservation.
The EDGE amphibian project launches today!
A major global conservation effort, aiming to bring to better attention the chronic plight of the world’s amphibian species, was launched at the start of this year. You might have heard of it: the Year of the Frog movement. And, today, a second project aimed at conserving the world’s endangered amphibians launches: the EDGE amphibian project, a website designed by the Zoological Society of London to draw attention to amphibian species that are not just globally endangered, but are also evolutionarily distinct…
As you might have guessed, ‘EDGE’ stands for Evolutionarily Distinct and Globally Endangered. EDGE species have few (or no) close living relatives and are highly distinct in terms of their biology, habits or behaviour. And while some EDGE species – like Giant pandas and Black rhinos – are well studied and relatively familiar, a great many are highly obscure and poorly known. So the plan over the last couple of months – as if you couldn’t guess – has been to build a framework of reference articles on Tet Zoo that essentially introduce the main amphibian lineages and their key traits. With the exception of one article left to do on natatanuran neobatrachians, I managed to get through all anurans, and of course just recently we did caecilians and caudates.
With this framework (virtually) in place, the stage is set for more detailed examinations of specific species and genera, focusing of course on the EDGE amphibian species. Given that I have a particular liking of obscure species, I had to take this on, and indeed you might argue that I had a responsibility to do so, given that virtually nothing non-technical has been written about many of the species concerned. We’re talking about such awesome creatures as the giant salamanders, Australian frogs that have lost their eardrums and communicate by waving their limbs around, miniature Mexican plethodontids, spiny salamanders, olms, and the singularly named Togo slippery frog Conraua derooi and Baw Baw frog Philoria frosti… and many others. As of today, lots of information on these species – much of it widely available for the first time – is available at the EDGE site, and I’m going to be blogging about some of these species over the following weeks and months. You have been warned!