Amphibians, reigning survivors of past mass extinctions, are sending a clear, unequivocal signal that something is wrong, as their extinction rates rise to unprecedented levels, according to a paper published by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). Humans are exacerbating two key natural threats – climate change and a deadly disease that is jumping from one species to another.
The authors confront the question of whether Earth is experiencing its sixth mass extinction and suggest that amphibians, as a case study for terrestrial life, provide a clear answer. "A general message from amphibians is that we may have little time to stave off a potential mass extinction," write co-authors Vance T. Vredenburg, assistant professor of biology at San Francisco State University, and David B. Wake, curator of herpetology in the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology at University of California, Berkeley, in the August 12 issue of PNAS.