Why Amazon is hopping with treefrogs

STONY BROOK U. (US) — The intermingling of different treefrogs that lasted for more than 60 million years was instrumental in the biodiversity of trees, birds, and insects in the Amazon Basin.

“Treefrogs are a particularly important group to study for understanding amphibian diversity, because they can make up nearly half of all amphibian species in some rainforest sites,” says John J. Wiens, associate professor of ecology and evolution at Stony Brook University.

“Treefrogs also offer a striking example of the high local-scale biodiversity in the Amazon.  At some sites in the Amazon rainforest, there are more treefrog species in a small area than there are across all of North America or Europe.”

The research is published in the journal Ecology Letters.

Researchers compiled data on the number of treefrog species at 123 sites around the world and analyzed the data with a new evolutionary tree (based on DNA sequence data) for 360 treefrog species.

The richness of treefrog species in the Amazon rainforest sites can not be explained by wet, tropical climatic conditions alone. “In fact, we found that many tropical rainforest sites that are outside the Amazon Basin have no more species than do some sites in temperate North America,” explains Wiens.

The results have important implications for humans.  “The results suggest that the incredible biodiversity of amphibians in some sites in the Amazon Basin took more than 50 million years to develop.

“If the Amazon rainforests are destroyed and the amphibian species are driven to extinction by human activities in the next few decades, it may take tens of millions of years for this incredible level of biodiversity to ever return.”

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