A new study of Peruvian frogs living at a wide variety of elevations – from the Amazon floodplain to high Andes peaks – lends support to the idea that lowland amphibians are at higher risk from future climate warming.
That's because the lowland creatures already live near the maximum temperatures they can tolerate, while high-elevation amphibians might be more buffered from increased temperatures, according to a study by University of Michigan ecologist Rudolf von May and his colleagues published online April 6 in the journal Ecology and Evolution.
Previous studies have suggested that lowland reptiles and amphibians are especially vulnerable to climate warming. But in most cases, those conclusions were based on computer modeling work that incorporated a limited amount of field data.
"Understanding how species respond to climatic variation is critical for conserving species in future climatic conditions. Yet for most groups of organisms distributed in tropical areas, data about species' critical thermal limits are limited," said von May, a postdoctoral researcher in the U-M Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology.
"I think the contribution of our study is that it focuses on a group of closely related frog species distributed along a single montane gradient and that it includes empirical data on species' tolerance to heat and cold, as well as air temperatures measured along the same gradient."
In the process of conducting the study, which involved more than two years of fieldwork, von May and his colleagues identified three previously unknown frog species. Those newly discovered species will be described separately in a series of journal articles.
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