Raising the profile of amphibians

by ZSL on

As part of our 10 year anniversary celebrations of ZSL’s EDGE of Existence Programme, EDGE Fellow Alejandro Calzada explains how he’s working to safeguard the future of the granular salamander.  

Granular salamander
The granular salamander is Critically Endangered in the wild
 There are more than 7,650 species of amphibians currently known, and even more are described each year. But, amphibians are facing threats – such as habitat loss, climate change and disease – and populations worldwide are disappearing.

Through the ZSL EDGE of Existence Programme, we’re working to conserve our most unique and threatened amphibians, including toads that give birth through the skin of their backs, legless creatures that burrow through soil, and blind cave salamanders that can survive for a decade or more without food! In fact, there are currently 972 EDGE amphibians, which is more than any other EDGE group. 

Mexico is home to nine of the top 20 EDGE amphibians, and one of these amazing species is the granular salamander. Its name comes from its corrugated or granular skin, especially along the tail, and it’s known only from a small area in Toluca city, in the central State of Mexico. 

Belonging to the ‘mole salamander’ family, which diverged from all other salamanders over 140 million years ago, it’s very special as it’s highly evolutionarily distinct. Like many of its close relatives, it’s a metamorphosing species, which means that it has two different physical forms: a juvenile form that has external gills and lives underwater, and an adult form that lives on land. 

At the end of its juvenile stage, the granular salamander becomes an adult by losing its gills and fins, and replaces these features with eyelids and lungs, moving out of the water and making its home on land and returning to water only to breed. 

Sadly though, the granular salamander is Critically Endangered in the wild, and a major threat is introduced predatory fish. Added to the problem of habitat clearance and degradation as a result of extensive urban and agricultural expansion, it spells disaster for the EDGE species. 

Even though it is under special protection by the Government of Mexico, the granular salamander does not occur in any protected areas, so the conservation and restoration of its remaining habitat is an urgent priority in order to prevent its extinction in the wild. 

Through the EDGE Fellowship Programme, I’m working to determine the conservation priorities for the species by investigating the current distribution, range and population size of granular salamanders. The aim is to use this information as part of a future conservation strategy.  

My EDGE Fellowship will provide me with skills and expertise for conservation, and I’ve really enjoyed the opportunity to meet great people who are experienced in the conservation of different, interesting animals.


Select a blog

Artefact of the month

Every month one of the pieces held in ZSL’s Library and at ZSL Whipsnade Zoo will feature here as Artefact of the month.

Asia Conservation Programme

Get the latest on ZSL's conservation work in Asia.

B.U.G.S Blog

Find out more about life in our B.U.G.S exhibit

Remote Sensing in Ecology and Conservation

A new Open Access journal for research at the interface of remote sensing, ecology and conservation.

ZSL Shop

See the latest ranges, updates and special offers from our exciting new online shop.

Wild About Magazine

Excerpts from ZSL's award winning members' magazine.

ZSL London Zoo

A blog for lovers of ZSL London Zoo. Bringing you amazing animal facts and exclusive access to the world's scientific oldest zoo.

ZSL Whipsnade Zoo

Discover more about the UK's biggest zoo with our fun blog posts!

Discovery and Learning in the Field

Join the ZSL Discovery and Learning team as they venture out of the zoo and in to the wild.


Catch up on our latest Conservation Blogs


ZSL Whipsnade Zoo's elephant keepers give an insight into the daily goings on in the elephant barn.

Tiger conservation

Read about conservation of tigers in Asia.

Videographer Blog

One man is boldly going where no other ZSL videographer has gone before - the land of Mountain Chicken Frogs.

Wild Science

From the field, to the lab, catch up with the scientists on the cutting edge of conservation biology at ZSL’s Institute of Zoology.

Wildlife Wood Project Cameroon

The Wildlife Wood Project has been working in Cameroon since 2007 to encourage better wildlife management in logging concessions.

Penguin expedition blog

Updates from penguin conservation expeditions to Antarctica

Amur Leopard

Amur leopard conservation blog

Baby Giraffe Diaries

Meet ZSL Whipsnade Zoo's latest (and leggiest) arrival, a baby giraffe!

Biodiversity and Palm Oil

Follow the ZSL Biodiversity and Palm Oil team, based in Bogor, Indonesia.

Chagos Expedition

The Chagos marine reserve, designated in 2010 and currently the world’s largest no take marine reserve, is a sought-after spot for marine research.


Science blogs

Tsaobis Baboon Blog

Follow ZSL conservationists studying desert baboons in Namibia.