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We’re mad about Madagascar.

By Dave Armstrong - 11 Oct 2014 9:17:0 GMT
We’re mad about Madagascar.

The tomato frog, Dyscophus antongilii, is a near-threatened endemic from Antongili Bay in Madagascar’s north east. The species’ situation is yet another example of gross negligence and lack of understanding, as pet-traders profited from the export of vast numbers from the island. Beautiful and endangered, like all of the unique wildlife of this “great natural nature reserve.”; Tomato frog image; Credit: © Shutterstock

Jason L. Brown and his fellow researchers from Duke University (and City College NYC), Queen’s, Belfast and the Technical University of Braunschweig have studied the reptiles and amphibian of Madagascar for years. With Africa possessing some of the most biodiverse hotspots on earth, the large island, although only having 0.5% of the land surface on earth, surpasses its continent in sheer isolated magnificence. The processes that made these endemic species possible have now been recreated using their mixed-spatial model.

The patterns of biodiversity from 8,362 records of 745 species were fed in. Using many possible biogeographic movements, the observed patterns seem to have been influenced by many more than one simple diversification process. As the team say, “One size certainly does not fit all.” The conclusions would be that species richness, endemism and the similarity of different communities can be used to explain the Madagascan situation.

The main groups studied in this paper differed from each other in the response they made to their magic environment. For the future, climate change and land use must now be taken into account if we are to save the many critically threatened habitats and species on this extensive natural nature reserve! To help, other researchers are already preparing papers on the unique climate, geology and environment of Madagascar. Just in time, as we tend to lose the forests quickly in the current political climate.

90% of the animals here are found nowhere else, as you can tell when our stories on Madagascar never fail to amaze our staff, let alone the readers. Large geckos have been our stock-in-trade elsewhere recently, while 50% of chameleon species live here, feeding sometimes on tiny iridescent frogs and reducing their own size to miniscule too. See the story below here.

The island situation largely helped the survival of endemic species by remaining stable throughout thousands of years and more. Now, global warming has shifted the goalposts for theses rare animals and plants. Instead of useful models, science has to struggle with the niches of each individual species to investigate how best to preserve both the habitat and their whole environment in the cause of conservation. Without these creatures of the big island, our hopes of maintaining the whole planet become lower and lower.

We plunder scientific papers on Madagascar almost daily, but we find gems such as the tiny chameleons (world’s smallest reptile) on tiny islands in the north: Miniature chameleon discovered in Madagascar. This new paper reveals much more on these amazing reptiles and others thanks to the authors’ hard work, published in Nature Communications and entitled - A necessarily complex model to explain the biogeography of the amphibians and reptiles of Madagascar.