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While tropical frogs can adapt and cope with climate change, rapidly rising temperatures pose a threat to their survival.
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While tropical frogs can adapt and cope with climate change, rapidly rising temperatures pose a threat to their survival.

Study shows tropical frogs can adapt to climate change, but rapidly warming temperatures still pose a huge threat


Study shows tropical frogs can adapt to climate change, but rapidly warming temperatures still pose a huge threat
Sooglossus sechellensis is from Praslin. Credit: Jim Labisko

An international team of researchers found evidence that tropical fishes are adapting to rising temperatures. However, they warn that humans-caused climate change remains a significant threat to species’ survival.

A group of international researchers, including Dr. Jeff Streicher at the Natural History Museum as Senior Curator, Amphibians, and Reptiles, and Dr. Jim Labisko at University College London, found evidence that tropical frogs adapt to warming temperatures. But they warn that humans may have caused this adaptation. Still, it is a significant threat to the survival and well-being of all species.

The Seychelles The endemic species of Sooglossus sechellensis is the of Mahé, Silhouette and Praslin in the Seychelles. Researchers focused on a population of Sooglossus sechellensis which—due to historic sea level rise—have been forced to inhabit the significantly warmer island of Praslin. Along with a warmer temperature, Praslin also lacks the high-elevation mist forest habitat that Sooglossus sechellensis inhabits on Mahé and Silhouette. The researchers speculated that Praslin’s frog population must have evolved to survive in hotter environments, as they are not allowed to escape them.

“Tropical amphibians are an excellent example of the situation facing a whole host species due to human-induced changes.” change’ says Dr. Streicher. “We wanted information on how and whether this isolated population of frogs had adapted. To understand how organisms will adapt to a warmer climate.

Tropical amphibians, particularly those that inhabit islands, are vulnerable to a warming climate due to a range of factors—they are ectothermic (their body temperature is regulated by the external environment) prone to desiccation and are often restricted to very specific areas.

A wide range of data can be used, including The researchers were able show that some tropical amphibians had survived periods of historic warming, and may be able to adapt to the current warming climate. Praslin’s frogs were found at an elevation higher than their closest living relatives, which was a good sign. They also had the same activity patterns, despite living in warmer temperatures.

Dr. Labisko said that there were no obvious differences in the frequency of vocal activity between the frogs at any of the islands. “On the islands of Mahé and Silhouette different sooglossid species are each active at different times of day but there is only one species of sooglossid on Praslin, so no related competitors, and so we might have expected the Praslin frogs to shift their activity pattern to cope with the warmer temperatures and be more active at cooler periods, such as at night. But this was not the case. The frogs kept their vocal activity consistent even when it was warmer. .”

Despite these adaptations the researchers, which include scientists from Perth Zoo and the Seychelles Islands Fund, warn that tropical frogs will still be threatened by local extinction due to the world’s rapid warming. The frogs on Mahé and Silhouette (the closest living relatives of the frogs on Praslin) diverged from the frogs on Praslin around 8 million years ago. The adaptations to a warmer climate observed in Praslin’s frogs could have occurred slowly. The study suggests that Praslin’s frogs may have evolved into a new species based on genetic evidence and differences in call characteristics.

Dr. Streicher says that “this population of frogs appears to have been capable of adapting to a warmer climate, even though this level of adaptation may not have taken a long period of time.” It’s exciting to imagine that this adaptive potential could also exist in other climate-vulnerable species.

Dr. Labisko said, “With a rapidly rising climate, it is really important to understand the response of different species to climate change.” “Our study shows that even little brown island frogs are vulnerable species. Although they can adapt to warmer climates and can survive in a gradual warming environment, this may not be possible for species that have been exposed to natural selection over millions of years. The current climate crisis is a serious concern because most species will not have millions to adapt to rapidly increasing temperatures.

The study “Survival in climate” Through niche shifts: Evidence From Frogs on Tropical Islands,” is published in Global Change Biology

Conservationists discover hidden diversity in ancient frog family

More information:
Jim Labisko and colleagues, Survival of climate heating through niche shifts: Evidence from frogs living on tropical islands Global Change Biology (2021). DOI: 10.1111/gcb.15997

While tropical frogs can adapt well to climate change (2021, December 8) they still face a significant threat from rapidly rising temperatures.
Retrieved 8 Dec 2021

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