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Biología y Sociedad


Salamanders constitute the second largest order of amphibians in the world. The 762 species occurring globally are organized into nine families, of which eight are found in the Western Hemisphere. The 308 species of Mesoamerican salamanders are arranged in four families, only two of which have representatives occurring significantly south of the US-Mexican border. Those two families are the Ambystomatidae, with 18 Mesoamerican species, and the Plethodontidae, with 287 species. Most of the Mesoamerican salamanders are endemic to either Mexico or Central America or to Mesoamerica in general. The largest number of endemic species belong to the genera Ambystoma, Bolitoglossa, Chiropterotriton, Nototriton, Oedipina, Pseudoeurycea, and Thorius. The greatest amount of salamander diversity is found in Mexico, followed in order by that in Guatemala, Costa Rica, Honduras, Panama, Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Belize. The amount of endemicity in Central America ranges in order from highest to lowest in Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Honduras, Panama, El Salvador, and Belize. Most species of Mesoamerican salamanders occupy conservation priority level one, amounting to 244 species and 88.4% of the 276 Mexican and Central American endemic species. These 244 species constitute a key conservation focal group for Mesoamerica based on several criteria. Most of the priority level one species are in the Mesa Central, Sierra Madre Occidental, Sierra Madre Oriental, Sierra Madre del Sur, Sierra de Los Tuxtlas, Western and Eastern Nuclear Central American Highlands, Isthmian Central American Highlands, and the Highlands of Eastern Panama. The significance of the biodiversity resource represented by Mesoamerican salamanders is not emphasized outside of a small cadre of conservation herpetologists and systematists working in the region. Nonetheless, these salamanders are threatened currently by the destructive activities of humans and potentially endangered by the possibility of the invasion of their habitats by the chytrid fungus Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans. Our conclusion is that Mesoamerican salamanders should be recognized as a conservation focal group for several reasons outlined herein. In addition, we suggest that these salamanders become the subject of a scientific congress tasked with promptly preparing a plan for protecting the diversity and endemicity of these amphibians for perpetuity.


Biological and Environmental Sciences

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