December 15, 2010

Climate Change Affecting Toad, Salamander Breeding Cycle

Researchers reported on Tuesday that climate change is affecting the breeding cycles of toads and salamanders.

They documented that two species were breeding later in the autumn than in years past, and two others were breeding earlier in the winter.

Their study adds to a growing body of evidence that climate change is affecting animals.

Other studies have found that some birds in North America and Europe are moving northwards as temperatures rise.

Brian Todd of the University of California, Davis and colleagues began setting up nets around a wetland in South Carolina starting 30 years ago.

"We analyzed 30 years of data on the reproductive timing of 10 amphibian species and found the first evidence of delayed breeding associated with climate change," they wrote in their report.

"We also found earlier breeding in two species. The rates of change in reproductive timing in our study are among the fastest reported for any ecological events," they added.

The changes coincide with a 2.16 degrees Fahrenheit warming in average overnight temperatures at the site.

"Our results highlight the sensitivity of amphibians to environmental change and provide cause for concern in the face of continued climate warming," Todd and colleagues concluded.

They found that the dwarf salamander Eurycea quadridigitata and marbled salamander Ambystoma opacum, both autumn-breeding species, arrived later in recent years than at the beginning of the study.

The tiger salamander Ambystoma tigrinum and the Pseudacris ornate, or ornate chorus frog, which are both winter-breeding species, were showing up earlier to breed.

The researchers said that six other species of frogs and toads did not change the timing of their breeding.

Todd and colleagues published their findings in the current issue of the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.


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