For Immediate Release, February 18, 2020

Contact:

Elise Bennett, Center for Biological Diversity, (727) 755-6950, ebennett@biologicaldiversity.org
Elise Zipkin, Michigan State University, (517) 884-8039, ezipkin@msu.edu

Study: Tropical Snake Diversity Collapses After Widespread Amphibian Loss

Swift Action Needed to Protect Life on Earth, Researchers Conclude

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla.— A study published this week documented the shocking collapse of a snake community in Panama following a sweeping loss of amphibians to an invasive, deadly fungal disease. The findings illustrate how the loss of just a few species can trigger rapid and invisible shockwaves through an entire ecosystem, wiping out many other animals in the process.

The peer-reviewed Science study found that the richness and diversity of snake species decreased after the massive die-off of prey amphibians caused by Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd), otherwise known as amphibian chytrid fungus. Further, the damage done to amphibians may have caused other strands of the food web to unravel, as populations of lizards and raptors may also have declined.

“This study paints a heartbreaking picture of the wildlife extinction crisis, with frogs dying from disease and snakes starving,” said Elise Bennett, a Center for Biological Diversity attorney dedicated to protecting imperiled reptiles and amphibians. “The implications go far beyond Panama. It’s not too late to save our struggling amphibians and reptiles, but it’ll take swift and courageous efforts to keep the precious tapestry of biodiversity from unraveling.”

Following the impact of the frog-killing invasive fungus, the study’s authors found that many snake species reduced in physical size and may have had difficulty switching to a new form of prey. The study concludes that “fast-moving policies are essential . . . to mitigate the impacts of the world’s biodiversity crisis.”

“Some species that are rare or hard to detect may be declining so quickly that we might not ever know we’re losing them,” said Elise Zipkin, Michigan State University integrative biologist and the study’s lead author. “In fact, this study is less about snakes and more about the general loss of biodiversity and its consequences.”

Scientists with the United Nations last year determined that more than 1 million plant and animal species across the globe are heading toward extinction.

In January the Center released a plan for Saving Life on Earth. The plan calls for the United States to become a global leader in protecting wildlife by declaring the extinction crisis a national emergency, creating new protected areas, and prioritizing wildlife protection over other uses of public lands.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.7 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.