It is estimated that global extinction rates are a thousand times higher than background rates indicated by the fossil record.

Humans have been driving this mass extinction throughout our brief and rapacious history – through direct hunting, habitat destruction and degradation, and the introduction of invasive species and diseases. This has already led to the loss of major branches of the Tree of Life, and a severe reduction in global biodiversity.

Many evolutionarily distinct (ED) amphibians have already lived through up to three mass extinction events in prehistoric historic, times when life on this planet experienced a severe surge in biodiversity loss. However, the current human-driven extinction is causing declines in at least 43% of all amphibian species, and nearly 30% of highly ED amphibian species are now threatened with extinction.

Eight highly ED amphibians have already disappeared forever, and many more have not been seen for decades and may also be lost. A total of 34 amphibians have been confirmed extinct by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, and a further 131 species may also have been wiped out and await verification. Many of these are also highly evolutionarily distinct.

To take one example, an entire amphibian family named Rheobatrachidae (the “gastric brooding frogs”), containing just two species, was rendered completely extinct by 1985. Native to Queensland in eastern Australia, these phenomenal creatures swallowed their own eggs after laying, allowing them to develop in the stomach of the female over the course of 6-7 weeks. During this time the female did not feed, and hormones produced by the young inhibited the digestive secretions of the stomach and inactivated the upper intestine. The stomach of the females would get so distended by the growing offspring that her lungs would collapse, forcing her to respire entirely though her skin. Fully formed froglets were later regurgitated, hopping out of the mother’s mouth. This phenomenal reproductive process disappeared over twenty years ago and may never evolve again in the history of life on Earth. 


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