Tiny New Guinea frogs endangered by climate change
Tiny frogs face a troubled future in New Guinea’s tropical mountains, ABC News, The Conversation, 30 Mar 17, By Paul Oliver and Michael Lee At night, the mountain forests of New Guinea come alive with weird buzzing and beeping calls made by tiny frogs, some no bigger than your little fingernail.
These little amphibians — in the genus Choerophryne — would shrivel and dry up in mere minutes in the hot sun, so they are most common in the rainy, cooler mountains.
Yet many isolated peaks, especially along northern New Guinea, have their own local species of these frogs.
So how did localised and distinctive species of these tiny frogs come to be on these isolated peaks, separated from each other by hotter, drier and rather inhospitable lowlands?
Our new study of their DNA, published this week in the open access journal PeerJ, reveals how they achieved this feat. It reveals a dynamic past, and more worryingly it highlights the future vulnerability of tropical mountain forests and their rich biodiversity………
During past phases of global cooling (glacial periods), the colder, wetter, mountainous habitats of New Guinea expanded downhill, a process termed elevational depression.
If depression was extensive enough, the frogs on one mountain might have been able to travel across tracts of cool, wet lowlands to colonise other mountains.
Later, a warming climate would wipe out the lowland populations, leaving two isolated mountain populations, which might eventually become new species………
The little frogs and the future
Why does it matter how the tiny frogs moved to their mountain habitats? Because it could be a warning to their future survival……..
As we’ve shown, the global cooling in past glacial periods allowed the mountain-dwelling frogs to move down across the lowlands to find new mountain peaks.
But today, as global temperatures soar to levels not seen for millions of years, their habitable cool zones are heading in the other direction: shrinking uphill.
We have no idea how quickly these frogs will respond to these changes, but recent research elsewhere in New Guinea has found birds are already shifting upslope rapidly.
We don’t yet know what could happen to these cute little amphibians should temperatures continue to climb, and they in turn run out of mountainside to climb……… http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-03-31/tiny-frogs-face-a-troubled-future-in-new-guineas-mountains/8403936
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