Amphibians are among the most threatened species in the world and are subjected to a substantial number of studies that have underscored their ecological and anthropocentric importance. Yet a synthesis of those aspects is in need. In this study I conducted a comprehensive literature review to investigate the importance of amphibians, including medical applications such as tissue regeneration, biomimicry of pharmaceutically useful compounds, direct socio-economic benefits, and overall ecosystem values. It is my intention to promote amphibian conservation by detailing various ecosystem services provided by amphibians and their uses to humans. Amphibians have tissue regenerative abilities, such as the ability to regrow entire limbs as adults as well as larvae, and heal cardiac, brain, spinal, and retina tissues. Study of these processes could allow the medical industry to restore sight and mobility, and to remedy neurological defects, along with many other medical discoveries that are currently under investigation. Findings have emerged detailing amphibian polypeptides that release insulin, and others that raise and lower blood pressure, showing the full scope of their pharmaceutical value is just beginning to be explored. The ecological importance of amphibians includes their association with both aquatic and terrestrial environments where matter and energy are circulated between aquatic and terrestrial habitats. Their movement cycles essential nutrients such as Phosphorus, Carbon, and Nitrogen improving the overall health and resilience of the ecosystem. In many northern forests and vernal pools, amphibians account for a greater biomass than birds, mammals, and reptiles combined. They are a central part of many food webs being both predators and prey, and being poikilotherms, they turn a greater portion of their calories into biomass compared to homeotherms. Amphibians provide many predators with a stable food and nutrient source. The large number of prey eaten daily by amphibians make them useful regulators of biomass in lower trophic levels, contributing to ecosystem stability, as well as biological control agents against pests such as mosquitos, biting flies, and crop-damaging arthropods. Their thin skin and superficial vasculature make them sensitive to environmental pollutants thereby making them useful indicator species as well. This review can help the understanding of the conservation importance of these unique animals highlighting their potential in general environmental functions as well as in the biomedical industry, which then can be used as an impetus to promote and encourage conservation.
Thilina Surasinghe (Thesis Advisor)
Copyright and Permissions
Original document was submitted as an Honors Program requirement. Copyright is held by the author.
West, Josh. (2018). Importance of Amphibians: A Synthesis of Their Environmental Functions, Benefits to Humans, and Need for Conservation. In BSU Honors Program Theses and Projects. Item 261. Available at: http://vc.bridgew.edu/honors_proj/261
Copyright © 2018 Josh West