Amphibian defenses against ultraviolet-B radiation


* Author for correspondence (e-mail: )


SUMMARY As part of an overall decline in biodiversity, amphibian populations throughout the world are disappearing. There are a number of potential causes for these declines, including those related to environmental changes such as increasing ultraviolet-B (UV-B) radiation due to stratospheric ozone depletion. UV-B radiation can kill amphibian embryos or can cause sublethal effects that can harm amphibians in later life stages. However, amphibians have defenses against UV-B damage that can limit damage or repair it after exposure to UV-B radiation. These include behavioral, physiological, and molecular defenses. These defenses differ interspecifically, with some species more able to cope with exposure to UV-B than others. Unfortunately, the defense mechanisms of many species may not be effective against increasing persistent levels of UV-B radiation that have only been present for the past several decades due to human-induced environmental damage. Moreover, we predict that persistent UV-B–induced mortality and sublethal damage in species without adequate defenses could lead to changes in community structure. In this article we review the effects of UV-B radiation on amphibians and the defenses they use to avoid solar radiation and make some predictions regarding community structure in light of interspecific differences in UV-B tolerance.