Are Amphibians Endangered? Frogs, Salamanders, and More Reveal Disturbing Extinction Pattern

Anna Garrison - Author

Oct. 10 2023, Published 5:45 p.m. ET

A trio of frogs rest on a log.
Source: iStock

The Gist:

  • A study published on Oct. 4, 2023, in the journal Nature reveals that 41 percent of amphibian species in the study are threatened with extinction.
  • The biggest threat to amphibians is habitat loss, thanks to farming and ranching and infrastructure development.
  • Additional threats to these tiny creatures include diseases and climate change.
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When you think of endangered species, the first animals that come to mind are probably pandas, red wolves, or other fuzzy creatures. You might not know that there is a continuous decline of amphibians that has been on the rise since 2004.

A study published on Oct. 4, 2023, in the journal Nature reveals that amphibians such as frogs, salamanders, newts, and many more are in danger. Are amphibians endangered? Should they become classified as an endangered species? Here's what to know.

A Himalayan newt rests on a log.
Source: iStock
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Are amphibians endangered? A new report suggests they're disappearing at a rapid rate.

In the study published on Oct. 4, researchers conducted the second-ever Global Amphibian Assessment, which included studying over 8,000 amphibian species for the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List of Threatened Species.

The study concluded that amphibians are the "most threatened vertebrae class," with just over 40 percent of the species noted as globally threatened.

According to the study, disease and habitat loss drove 91 percent of the deterioration in population between 1980 and 2004. Additionally, 39 percent of the deterioration since 2004 has been driven by climate change, with 37 percent by habitat loss.

The abstract also recommends " immediate conservation action" to "reverse the current trends."

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A poison dart frog.
Source: iStock

University of Texas biologist Michael Ryan, who was not involved in the study, spoke to the Associated Press (AP) and noted that amphibians were particularly vulnerable for several reasons. The first is that their unique life stages often require particular habitats (i.e., from tadpole to full frog), and not having these habitats can disrupt their life cycles.

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Second, amphibians have delicate skin, and most breathe oxygen through their skin, making them extremely susceptible to chemical pollution, bacteria, and other fungal infections that could hurt them.

Additionally, climate change can impact the amphibians if temperatures change too drastically. Duke University's Junjie Yao explained to the AP, "Amphibians are the world's most threatened animals. Their unique biology and permeable skin make them very sensitive to environmental changes."

A spotted salamander resting on a bed of moss.
Source: iStock
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The study also reports that the most threatened species lived in "the Caribbean islands, Mesoamerica, the Tropical Andes, the mountains and forests of western Cameroon and eastern Nigeria, Madagascar, the Western Ghats and Sri Lanka."

Why are amphibians important?

Amphibians are an important part of the ecosystem; as per the American Natural History Museum, they provide a critical food source to other species while eating less desirable insects.

The American Natural History Museum also notes that frogs are an important environmental indicator and that frogs, in particular, are often "warning signs" of endangered ecosystems.

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