Did you know . . .
Snakes like boas and rattlesnakes have heat sensing organs on their faces to detect warm-blooded prey.
Many salamanders have no lungs at all and rely on breathing completely through their skin.
Even though reptiles and amphibians are sometimes called “cold-blooded” they actually get heat from their surroundings and can be a lot warmer than so-called “warm-blooded” animals like mammals and birds.
The most toxic animal on earth, the golden poison frog, was once used to coat poison darts by indigenous peoples in what is now Colombia. A single frog holds enough toxin to kill 20,000 mice!
Toxin from a poison frog is now being used to develop a powerful new pain-reliever.
Gila monster venom was used to create perhaps the best treatment for diabetes available today.
Threatened and Endangered Species
The classifications of “threatened” and “endangered” are vital to the survival of rare and imperiled species. However, they are terms that can be difficult to define accurately, and they can be even harder to assign in any given case. RAEI is working on the front lines in the field to determine which species warrant these and other designations, and what we can do to bring their numbers back up so that they can someday be delisted.
Fortunately, there is a fast-growing body of knowledge on the status of amphibians worldwide. Scientists in universities as well as organizations like ours have worked tirelessly to come up with a best estimate for the status of all 6,644 species of frogs, salamanders, and caecilians. That’s the good news. The bad news is that nearly one third of all living species of amphibians are in danger of extinction, and about 170 are already believed to be extinct.
Our state of knowledge for the conservation status of reptiles is much less complete. Of the 8,734 species of known reptiles, only 1,437 have sufficient data to have been evaluated for conservation status. That leaves 83% of reptiles for which we lack sufficient data to know whether their populations are increasing, decreasing, or holding steady. Among the reptiles, the turtles and crocodilians are the best known; all 23 species of crocodiles and alligators have been evaluated, and about two-thirds of turtles and tortoises have.
For both reptiles and amphibians, even if we know what is happening to their populations, their fates are far from certain. In some cases, there is a distinct cause that can be addressed. For sea turtles, protecting their nesting beaches from egg harvesting has led to a reversal of population declines at many nesting sites. In many other cases, causes are complicated (see our amphibian declines page for examples). But the fact remains, we need to know much, much more to figure out both what is happening to our frogs, lizards, snakes, and turtles and then to determine what we can do about it.