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The amphibians of Isalo Massif, southern-central Madagascar: High frog diversity in an apparently hostile dry habitat
Abstract and Figures
We provide a list of the amphibians from the Isalo Massif, southern-central Madagascar with data on their ecology and acoustics. Although this area is constituted by a xeric sandstone massif crossed by canyons and extended savannah-like grasslands, the number of discovered frog species turned out to be high (21). This is the highest number of amphibian species ever found at a western locality of Madagascar. The number of species known to be endemic from this area is at least five (Mantella expectata, Gephyromantis azzurrae, G. corvus, Mantidactylus noralottae ,a nd Scaphiophryne gottlebei), with some other taxa (Boophis occidentalis, B. cf. periegetes, Mantidactylus sp. aff. ulcerosus), that are possibly Isalo-endemic too. This high endemicity level indicates the refuge effect played by the massif during repeated climatic changes, and the specialisation of these species to the peculiar canyon-habitat. Two sympatric species of Gephyromantis (G. azzurrae and G. corvus) evolved independently, likely for adaptation to two different aspects of the canyons (narrow or open). Part of the massif is currently managed as a national park, which is the most visited protected area of Madagascar. The remaining part of the massif is still unprotected and is threatened by the repeated fires and by the ongoing exploitation for sapphire mining. Two species, Mantella expectata and Scaphiophryne gottlebei, are captured for pet-trade, and considerations are provided regarding their conservation status.
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