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Conservation Biology of Caecilian Amphibians

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Most of the available data on declining populations of amphibians pertain to frogs and, to a lesser extent, salamanders. In keeping with their generally less understood biology, the population trends and conservation status of caecilian amphibians (Gymnophiona) are also much less known. We reviewed reports of threats to and declines of populations of caecilians. Despite a lack of field-study details (e.g., localities, dates, and sampling methods) and quantitative data, there are several recent reports of threats to and declines and extinctions of caecilians. A range of causal explanations (habitat loss, pollution, chytridiomycosis, and scientific collecting) for these perceived declines have been proposed but little or no associated evidence has been given. Although caecilians are often considered rare and thought to require pristine habitat, published, quantitative data demonstrate that at least some species can occur in high abundance in disturbed, synanthropic environments. Few estimates of caecilian population parameters have been made and very few field methods have been tested, so the assumed rarity of any taxa remains inadequately demonstrated. Distribution and taxonomic data are also inadequate. Because they are generally poorly known and often cryptic, caecilians can be overlooked in standard faunal surveys, meaning that lack of opportunistic collection over several years might not represent evidence of decline. The conservation status of most species must be considered data deficient. More precise assessments will require a substantial increase in all areas of caecilian research, especially those involving new fieldwork. Future reports of caecilian conservation biology need to be explicit and more quantitative.
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Keywords: Amphibia; Evaluación Global de Anfibios; Global Amphibian Assessment; Gymnophiona; declinaciones poblacionales; ecology; ecología; population declines; taxonomy; taxonomía

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Zoology, The Natural History Museum, London SW7 5BD, United Kingdom

Publication date: February 1, 2005

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