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Reptiles, Amphibians on Remote Philippine Island Contribute to Unique Biodiversity

Feb 10, 2013 04:51 AM EST

The Sierra Madre Mountain Range on the Philippine island of Luzon boasts of more than 100 species of reptiles and amphibians, according to a recent study.

More than 150 species of reptiles and amphibians exist on the entire island. Out of these species, researchers have documented a total of 49 amphibian species, 44 of which are native and 32 of which are endemic. In the case of the reptiles, there are 106 native species, of which 76 species are unique to this region.

The species, ranging from frogs and crocodiles to snakes and lizards, contribute to the unique biodiversity of the remote island. For instance, researchers catalogued a colubrid snake Hologerrhum philippinum with a vibrant-yellow skin decoration. The species is one of the four endemic snake genera from the region. They also documented a bizarre soft-shell turtle Pelochelys cantorii and a frog called Platymantis cagayanensis that has yellow upper irises. Pelochelys cantorii is facing a high risk of extinction in the wild.

Researchers also found pale-colored frogs, called Rhacophorus appendiculatus, in high-elevation forests in the crater of Mt. Cagua, reports LiveScience.

With such an array of biodiversity, northern Philippines has become one of the major hotspots to find a large number of new species in recent decades. Researchers believe there are tremendous opportunities for future studies in taxonomy, ecology and conservation of northern Luzon's amphibians and reptiles.

Conservation of the island's biodiversity "remains an on-going effort, challenged by rapid development, logging, mining and conversion of natural habitats into agricultural lands to provide food for a burgeoning human population," researchers write in the paper.

The findings of the study are published in the journal ZooKeys.

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