Alejandra Zamora’s image ‘Fighting Extinction’ was shortlisted in the postgraduate researcher category of the 2020 Images of Research competition. You can see the celebratory brochure and find out about the 2021 competition by visiting the website, here: https://www.mmu.ac.uk/research/research-study/events/images/
In this post, Alejandra explains the context for her shortlisted photo.
Mesoamerica is a hotspot comprising a variety of habitats and species. Amphibians are one of the most diverse groups in Mesoamerica; unfortunately, they are one of the most endangered taxa as well. The black-eye tree frog, Agalychnis moreletii, is a stunning species that inhabits forests of Guatemala, Mexico, Belize, El Salvador and Honduras. They are endangered due to habitat destruction, pollution, the pet trade, and diseases. Sadly, there is not much information about the species among its distribution range.
We did research to determine the genetic diversity of different populations from Mexico and Central America as well as the skin microbiome diversity and how the presence of infectious diseases can have an impact on them.
Our results indicate that this species may be cryptic, meaning it could actually be several highly endangered groups that need to be managed as separate units to assure its conservation. We also found that bacterial diversity collapses when individuals are infected with the chytrid fungi, which puts more pressure on the populations.
This species was downgraded from Critically Endangered to Least Concern in 2016, even if the population trend is to decrease. This shows the importance of studying the genetic diversity and microbiome in amphibians to assess the population status and be able to develop conservation plans according to species needs.