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Amphibian Declines

The Conservation Status of United States Species

Michael Lannoo

Publication Year: 2005

This benchmark volume documents in comprehensive detail a major environmental crisis: rapidly declining amphibian populations and the disturbing developmental problems that are increasingly prevalent within many amphibian species. Horror stories on this topic have been featured in the scientific and popular press over the past fifteen years, invariably asking what amphibian declines are telling us about the state of the environment. Are declines harbingers of devastated ecosystems or simply weird reflections of a peculiar amphibian world?

This compendium—presenting new data, reviews of current literature, and comprehensive species accounts—reinforces what scientists have begun to suspect, that amphibians are a lens through which the state of the environment can be viewed more clearly. And, that the view is alarming and presages serious concerns for all life, including that of our own species.

The first part of this work consists of more than fifty essays covering topics from the causes of declines to conservation, surveys and monitoring, and education. The second part consists of species accounts describing the life history and natural history of every known amphibian species in the United States.

Published by: University of California Press

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. i-vi


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-x

...This work truly represents an effort from the community of United States herpetologists, and I thank each and every one of the 215 contributors to this volume for their efforts, for working with me, and for sharing my views on the necessity and urgency of this effort. I am humbled. I also thank a subset of these workers, my Advisory Board, for the guidance...

Advisory Board

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pp. xi-xii


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pp. xiii-xviii

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pp. xix-xxii

...For much of the past decade and a half, reports of amphibian declines and developmental malformations have been featured in the scientific and popular press. These reports typically open or close with the question: Are amphibians telling us something about the state of the environment...

PART ONE - Conservation Essays

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p. 1-1


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p. 2-2

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1 Diverse Phenomena Influencing Amphibian Population Declines

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pp. 3-6

...Twelve years after the Declining Amphibian Populations Task Force (DAPTF) was established, those who have to answer queries from other biologists and the media are still unable to say why amphibians are declining. In this chapter, I briefly discuss a number of issues...

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2 Why Are Some Species in Decline but Others Not?

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pp. 7-9

...During 1988, however, something was definitely wrong. I found only one golden toad in the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve in northwestern Costa Rica; in the previous year I had seen over 1,500 individuals. During the following month, I could not find harlequin frogs...

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3 Philosophy, Value Judgements, and Declining Amphibians

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pp. 10-14

...As quoted, Shapin’s (1996) view of how the modern natural sciences establish knowledge (based on the historical roots of the Scientific Revolution) provides an interesting framework from which to examine contemporary discourses concerning “declining amphibian populations.” If one believes...

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4 Embracing Human Diversity in Conservation

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pp. 15-16

...Amphibians are in decline. It is not important whether decline means the number of species, populations, or individuals, or whether amphibians will always be perceived as declining because of varying numbers of offspring, or whether the natural fluctuations in amphibian communities make quantification difficult. Fewer amphibian species, populations...

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5 Declining Amphibian Populations Task Force

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pp. 17-21

...During the 1970s and 1980s, researchers in many parts of the world reported seemingly drastic population declines and disappearances of amphibians. International amphibian and reptile scientific societies held special sessions at annual meetings. In February 1990, the U.S. National Academy of Sciences sponsored an international meeting...


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p. 22-22

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6 Meeting the Challenge of Amphibian Declines with an Interdisciplinary Research Program

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pp. 23-27

...Amphibian populations fluctuate in size (Pechmann et al., 1991; Alford and Richards, 1999), but around 1989, herpetologists became alarmed by reports that populations and even species were declining—some to extinction (Blaustein and Wake, 1990; Corn, 1994a; Bury et al., 1995; Pounds et al., 1997). By 1997, this problem led three...

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7 Biology of Amphibian Declines

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pp. 28-33

...The evident decline of amphibian populations today is worrisome and surprising. Infectious disease (Cunningham et al., 1996; Lips, 1999; Morell, 1999), parasitic infection (Sessions and Ruth, 1990; Johnson et al., 1999), ultraviolet radiation (Blaustein et al., 1994c), chemical pollutants (Berrill et al., 1997b; Bonin et al., 1997b; Hayes et al., 2002a,c), introduced predators (Liss and Larson, 1991; Bradford...

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8 Declines of Eastern North American Woodland Salamanders

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pp. 34-46

...Recent declines and extinctions of amphibian populations have been reported in many areas of the world. A majority of the documented declines are in easily detectable anuran species. In eastern North America, flatwoods salamanders...

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9 Decline of Northern Cricket Frogs (Acris crepitans)

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pp. 47-54

...At the end of the nineteenth century, there were indications that northern cricket frogs (Acris crepitans) were numerous in the midwestern United States. Garman (1892) found the species was “one of the most abundant members of the family in all parts of Illinois,” and Hay (1892) similarly indicated it was “one of our commonest batrachians” in Indiana. This abundance continued well past...

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10 Overwintering in Northern Cricket Frogs (Acris crepitans)

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pp. 55-58

...Although winter weather in north-temperate regions may dominate 6–9 months of the year, this season has received relatively little attention in studies of amphibian life history. While some aspects of behavioral and physiological responses to cold have been elucidated, we generally have not applied this understanding to the management...


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p. 59-59

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11 Repercussions of Global Change

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pp. 60-63

...Living organisms must track the climate regimes appropriate for their survival, adapt to new conditions, or go extinct. In the 1970s, climatologists began to warn that Earth would experience rapid changes, induced in part by emissions of “greenhouse” gases resulting from the burning of fossil fuels, intensifying land use, and reduction...

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12 Lessons from Europe

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pp. 64-74

...Amphibians and reptiles are coming to be regarded in Europe as indicator groups for a general decline in species diversity (Thielcke et al., 1983; Blab, 1985, 1986). The decline of these groups has been well documented in Europe and on other continents as a result of numerous surveys (e.g., Lemmel, 1977; Feldmann, 1981; Hayes and...

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13 Risk Factors and Declines in Northern Cricket Frogs (Acris crepitans)

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pp. 75-86

...Reports from around the world have indicated declines in numerous amphibian species (e.g., Wake, 1991; Adler, 1992; K. Phillips, 1994; Stebbins and Cohen, 1995; Green, 1997b; Lannoo, 1998b). There have been many proposed causes for these amphibian declines: habitat destruction, acidification of aquatic environments, pesticides...

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14 Ultraviolet Radiation

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pp. 87-88

...Global climate changes, including changes in atmospheric conditions, may be contributing to amphibian population declines. Thus, a number of recent studies have investigated the effects of the ultraviolet (UV) component of ambient solar radiation on amphibians. Studies of amphibians and UV radiation have concentrated on...

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15 Xenobiotics

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pp. 89-92

...Published in 1962, Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring was an impassioned plea to reduce or eliminate the production and release of xenobiotics into the environment. Silent Spring painted a grim portrait of an earth so polluted with these human-produced chemicals that no birds or frogs were left to sing during the spring. Since that time, the...

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16 Variation in Pesticide Tolerance

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pp. 93-95

...A growing body of evidence suggests that a number of amphibian populations have declined in recent years (Barinaga, 1990; Blaustein and Wake, 1990; Wake, 1998). The cause of these declines has been difficult to establish because in some instances only a single species is declining while sympatric species are thriving (e.g., K.R. McAllister et al., 1993). Similar variation can be observed within a single...

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17 Lucké Renal Adenocarcinoma

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pp. 96-102

...era in medical history is important for several reasons. At the time, Lucké, a pathologist at the University of Pennsylvania, was treading on dangerous terrain when he suggested that the frog renal adenocarcinoma was caused by a virus—in this case, a herpesvirus (Lucké, 1952). A few years earlier, Rockefeller Institute’s Peyton Rous had identified a virus...

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18 Malformed Frogs in Minnesota: History and Interspecific Differences

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pp. 103-108

...Sporadic reports of malformed amphibians are abundant in the literature, and these reports have been thoroughly reviewed prior to the recent “outbreak” of malformations (Van Valen, 1974) as well as in papers related to the current malformation phenomenon (Ouellet, 2000; Lannoo et al., 2003). Merrell (1969) reported finding limb malformations in northern...

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19 Parasites of North American Frogs

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pp. 109-123

...Every species of vertebrate has co-evolved with its own diverse parasite fauna. Harboring huge numbers of parasitic worms of several different species might seem to imply that the host’s health is severely compromised and may even be fatal. After all, malaria and hookworms annually kill millions of people worldwide. Fortunately for...

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20 Parasite Infection and Limb Malformations: A Growing Problem in Amphibian Conservation

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pp. 124-138

...Over the last two decades, scientists have become increasingly concerned about ongoing trends of amphibian population decline and extinction (Blaustein and Wake, 1990, 1995; Phillips, 1990; Pechmann et al., 1991; Wake, 1998). Parasitic pathogens, including certain bacteria, fungi, viruses, and helminths (see also Sutherland, this volume), have...

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21 Pine Silviculture

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pp. 139-145

...The Coastal Plain of the southeastern United States is a vast natural area that has gone largely unheralded. Geographically, it fringes the southeastern corner of the continent, stretching 3,200 km from Long Island, New York, to the Mexican border, and including all of Florida. Geologically...

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22 Commercial Trade

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pp. 146-148

...The international and interstate trade in amphibians is enormous and legally complex. There are also ramifications to this trade. In addition to posing a threat to native populations from overcollecting, the herpetofauna trade (including the bait industry) imports native animals that may be diseased or of different genetic stock and exotic species that may be invasive...


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p. 149-149

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23 Houston Toads and Texas Politics

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pp. 150-167

...Media hype has inaccurately portrayed amphibian declines as cataclysmic events of recent origin. It is more probable that declines in the United States began in earnest at least as far back as the mid-nineteenth century, shortly after the invention of the steel moldboard plow. Repeated use of this agricultural implement results in a 5–8 cm thick...

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24 Amphibian Conservation Needs

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pp. 168-176

...We have experienced many scientific and management challenges and opportunities through our 15 years working together to understand and conserve amphibians in the northern Rocky Mountain and Pacific Northwest regions of the United States. We have observed that many herpetologists are unaware of or poorly informed on...

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25. Amphibian Population Cycles and Long-Term Data Sets

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pp. 177-184

...The loss of biodiversity throughout the world is increasing at an alarming rate, with habitat destruction and fragmentation as the leading causes for extinction rates that are 100 to 1,000 times greater than pre-human levels (Pimm et al., 1995; Global Biodiversity Assessment, 1996; Chapin et al., 1998). Such losses are particularly evident among...

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26 Landscape Ecology

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pp. 185-192

...The increased public interest in amphibian conservation and the growing evidence of detrimental effects of habitat fragmentation on biological diversity (see Saunders et al., 1991 for a review) has prompted land managers to seek ways of managing amphibian populations at landscape scales. For example, principles of landscape ecology are now being used by avian ecologists to direct conservation...

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27 Conservation of Texas Spring and Cave Salamanders (Eurycea)

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pp. 193-197

...Many species of endemic aquatic organisms inhabit the springs and water-filled caves of the Edwards Plateau region of central Texas. Most have limited distributions, and their existence is dependent upon the availability of clean water from subterranean sources (the Edwards Aquifer and associated aquifers). The Edwards Plateau is composed of uplifted karst limestone; water percolates through the...

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28 Lessons from the Tropics

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pp. 198-205

...Abrupt declines in amphibian populations have been reported in the media and the scientific literature for more than a decade. Scientists have detected declines in amphibian populations in North America (Corn and Fogleman, 1984; Blaustein and Wake, 1990; Bishop and Pettit, 1992; Carey, 1993; Kagarise- Sherman and Morton, 1993; Scott, 1993; Drost and Fellers, 1996; Green, 1997b; Lannoo, 1998b), Central America (Crump et al., 1992; Pounds...

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29 Taxonomy and Amphibian Declines

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pp. 206-209

...Any attempt to describe the extent and significance of biodiversity requires a clear and workable system of classification. This is especially true of conservation efforts with a goal of the recognition and protection of threatened populations. However, the past decade has seen a major revision in systematics with some authorities going so...

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30 Conservation Systematics: The Bufo boreas Species Group

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pp. 210-221

...Systematics and taxonomy play critical roles in conservation (May, 1990; Eldredge, 1992; Systematics Agenda, 2000, 1994a,b; Wheeler, 1995; Koch and Peterson, this volume; Minton, this volume). Taxonomic names are important for recognition and clear communication about the units to be conserved; conservation efforts have been compromised...

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31 Factors Limiting the Recovery of Boreal Toads (Bufo b. boreas)

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pp. 222-236

...Populations in the Southern Rocky Mountains suffered extensive declines in the late 1970s through early 1980s (Carey, 1993). At the time, these mass mortalities were thought to be associated with a bacterial infection (Carey, 1993). Although the few populations that survived the mass die-offs were not systematically monitored until at least 1993, no mass mortalities had been observed until...

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32 Southwestern Desert Bufonids

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pp. 237-240

...The anuran family Bufonidae is a large, cosmopolitan group comprising of almost 400 species that inhabit a great variety of environments. Three bufonids with relatively limited distribution in the United States are federally listed as “endangered:” Wyoming toads...

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33 Amphibian Ecotoxicology

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pp. 241-243

...The imperiled status of numerous amphibian species worldwide suggests that current research efforts need to take new, biologically relevant directions in order to understand the influence of chemical contamination. A recent summary of the current state of understanding concerning declining amphibians indicates that airborne contaminants are important but that “existing test protocols...

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34 Museum Collections

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pp. 244-246

...Most professional herpetologists have had a course in college or graduate school that required some form of field collection. Perhaps it was a class in vertebrate natural history, where we were expected to collect, preserve, document, and catalog one or more specimens from each of the major vertebrate classes. These specimens were often expected to be of “museum quality” and handed in to the professor...

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35 Critical Areas

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pp. 247-259

...The global decline of amphibians has received a great deal of attention (Wake, 1991; Wake and Morwitz, 1991; K. Phillips, 1994) and serves as an indicator of a larger problem involving the decline of overall biodiversity associated with uncontrolled human population growth. In North America, amphibians have declined due to environmental alteration associated...

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36 Creating Habitat Reserves for Migratory Salamanders

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pp. 260-264

...Habitat loss and fragmentation results in the reduction and isolation of amphibian populations (Reh and Seitz, 1990; Gulve, 1994) and the subsequent increased risk of local extinction (Saccheri et al., 1998). While local extinctions are often part of amphibian population dynamics, amphibian populations persist because such extirpations...

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37 Population Manipulations

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pp. 265-270

...In recent years in North America and in other locales, there has been a surge of interest in the status and conservation of amphibian populations. Concern centers on the disappearance or decline of individual populations, species, and even geographic assemblages of amphibians, particularly anurans. The declines are real, despite much initial...

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38 Exotic Species

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pp. 271-274

...Within the framework of species conservation resides the increasingly relevant and disconcerting topic of exotic species. A conservative definition of exotic amphibian species includes only those species that have colonized the United States by human-mediated dispersal. This definition...

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39 Protecting Amphibians While Restoring Fish Populations

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pp. 275-276

...Park and wildlife managers are facing an ironic dilemma as they work to restore and protect aquatic ecosystems—must amphibians be sacrificed if native fish are to return? Over the past century throughout the United States, resource managers sought to enhance the recreational value of lakes and streams...

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40 Reflections Upon Amphibian Conservation

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pp. 277-281

...I began my fieldwork with amphibians in West Virginia in 1963 at the age of 23, and I have spent most of my time (when not teaching) walking the mountains of West Virginia searching for amphibians and reptiles. My major study sites include the New River Gorge National River, the Bluestone National Scenic River, the Gauley River National...

Surveys and Monitoring

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p. 282-282

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41 Distribution of South Dakota Anurans

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pp. 283-291

...In a little over a century, the prairie pothole region of the northern Great Plains has been transformed from a contiguous expanse of wetlands and grasslands into a highly fragmented agricultural landscape. Regional wetland losses due to agricultural activities and urbanization have been extensive and widespread, exceeding 90% in northwestern Iowa and western Minnesota (Tiner, 1984; Dahl, 1990; Leja, 1998). Declines in amphibian numbers...

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42 Nebraska’s Declining Amphibians

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pp. 292-294

...During the 1970s, John D. Lynch and his students conducted extensive fieldwork in Nebraska to complete a herpetological survey begun by George E. Hudson nearly three decades earlier (Hudson, 1942; Lynch, 1985). In the wake of alarm calls concerning the status of amphibians around the globe since the late 1980s and early 1990s numerous...

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43 Museum Collections Can Assess Population Trends

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pp. 295-299

...Early warnings of amphibian declines have been realized as species have vanished, or disappeared from large portions of their ranges (Blaustein et al., 1994a; Pechmann and Wilbur, 1994; Lannoo, 1998b,c). These declines have alerted biologists and conservation agencies to the need to combine proactive evaluation of status and...

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44 Monitoring Salamander Populations in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

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pp. 300-306

...Recent evidence of worldwide amphibian population declines has highlighted the need for a better understanding of both species-specific habitat associations and methodologies for monitoring long-term population trends (Barinaga, 1990; Blaustein and Wake, 1990; Wake, 1991; Lannoo, 1998b). For decades, studies have relied on relative abundance indices to evaluate salamander populations...

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45 North American Amphibian Monitoring Program (NAAMP)

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pp. 307-313

...Declines in amphibian populations have been noted since at least the 1970s (Gibbs et al., 1971; Hayes and Jennings, 1986; Tyler, 1991; Pounds and Crump, 1994; Bradford et al., 1994a; Drost and Fellers, 1996; Green, 1997b; Lannoo, 1998b; Bury, 1999; Campbell, 1999). In 1989 at the World Congress of Herpetology, informal conversations among...

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46 Evaluating Calling Surveys

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pp. 314-319

...In North America, approximately 55 of the 103 species of anurans can be surveyed readily by using counts of vocalizing males as an index to their presence or population size. Such surveys are most applicable to eastern and northern parts of the continent, where almost all species...

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47 Geographical Information Systems and Survey Designs

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pp. 320-325

...The availability and utility of Geographical Information Systems (GIS) has increased greatly within the past 20 years. For general descriptions of GIS, see Clarke (1997), Heywood et al. (1998), and Krzysik (1998a). In the past, GIS required expensive workstations, software that was difficult to use, expert technicians, and considerable resources for...

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48 Impacts of Forest Management on Amphibians

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pp. 326-327

...Researchers with the Missouri Department of Conservation, the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, the U.S. Forest Service, and cooperating universities (University of Missouri– Columbia, University of Missouri–St. Louis, Michigan Technological University, and...

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49 Monitoring Pigment Pattern Morphs of Northern Leopard Frogs

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pp. 328-337

...have undergone mutations affecting their pigment patterns. These extraordinarily uncommon pattern mutations have increased to polymorphic frequencies in populations of frogs in the upper Midwest. The vast majority of mutations are lost, and the success of mutant genes (i.e., their increase and retention in...


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p. 338-338

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50 The National Amphibian Conservation Center

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pp. 339-340

...Zoos are evolving, becoming more than just a place to take children on a warm summer day. The best zoos provide not only the recreational opportunities but the educational and science-based conservation opportunities as well. Most zoos must rely upon the charismatic megafauna (elephants, rhinos, lions, etc.) to bring the...

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51 A Thousand Friends of Frogs: Its Origins

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pp. 341-342

...What do malformed frogs in Minnesota and Japan have in common? Students on field trips discovered them. The problem of malformed frogs drew national attention in 1995 when Cindy Reinitz and her students at the Minnesota New Country School in Henderson, Minnesota, found large numbers of malformed frogs. Images of...

A Perspective

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p. 343-343

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52 Of Men and Deformed Frogs: A Journalist's Lament

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pp. 344-348

...In August 1995, a group of middle school students on a field trip in south-central Minnesota made an odd and, to their minds, alarming discovery while exploring a bean field surrounding a large wetland. A year later I started writing about what they had found, and once I started writing I learned that it was hard to stop...


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pp. 349-350

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pp. 351-380

...Worldwide reports of amphibian population declines and malformations prompt concern about species protection. At this point in time in the United States, we recognize 289 extant amphibian species: 103 species of frogs and 186 species of salamanders (Appendix IN-A), although the identity and relationships of species in several genera remain unresolved. Amphibians occur in nearly all...

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pp. 381-600

...which appears somewhat higher than tailed frog clutches from the Cascade Mountains and Coastal Ranges (reviewed by Bury et al., 2001). Montana tailed frogs may only oviposit every other year (Metter, 1964a). Adams and Frissell (2001) reported seasonal movements of adults consistent with an avoidance...

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pp. 601-914

...No specimens have been reported from the Ozark Plateau of Kansas (Collins, 1993). There are no data to suggest that the current distribution differs from the pre-settlement distribution. Phillips et al. (2000) note that populations in the northeastern portion of the range (central Missouri) have less...

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Factors Implicated in Amphibian Population Declines in the United States

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pp. 915-925

...Many species of amphibians have declined substantially in distribution or number of populations in the United States and globally, and a variety of anthropogenic and natural factors have been suggested as causal agents in these declines (e.g., Green, 1997a,b; Lannoo, 1998, 2003; Alford and Richards, 1999; Houlahan et al., 2000, 2001; Semlitsch, 2000; Alford et al., 2001; Lannoo et al., Introduction...

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p. 926-926

...This work synthesizes and offers direction. In Part One we have attempted to present what we know about the extent and causes of amphibian declines and what we can do about them. In Part Two we present the life history and natural history features needed to manage for amphibians, with a current assessment of their distribution. In assembling the literature...

Literature Cited

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pp. 927-1076


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pp. 1077-1094

E-ISBN-13: 9780520929432
Print-ISBN-13: 9780520235922

Page Count: 1115
Publication Year: 2005