Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

Population declines

Toe-clipping vital to amphibian research

Keeping a record of the global decline of amphibian populations depends on the identification and marking of individuals in the field, commonly by toe-clipping. This work is under threat: the Brazilian federal government and non-governmental organizations want to prohibit toe-clipping without scientific justification.

Toe-clipping is a simple, cost-effective, minimally invasive marking technique that has been in use for decades in herpetological research. The Brazilian federal agency that enforces environmental policies, IBAMA, is claiming that the practice is a form of mutilation and should be a criminal offence under federal law (see; in Portuguese). The Brazilian Herpetological Society has protested against this anthropocentric position (see; in Portuguese) on the grounds that it would set back efforts to understand amphibian decline.

Brazil is home to the greatest amphibian diversity on Earth, but knowledge of population dynamics is scant and will remain so without access to reliable marking methods. We acknowledge that toe-clipping is not an ideal solution but, when properly implemented, it has minimal effects on amphibian survival and behaviour. Without this technique, it will be harder to obtain crucial information that could prevent amphibian species from becoming extinct (W. C. Funk et al. Nature 433, 193; 2005).

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to Décio T. Corrêa.

Supplementary information

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Corrêa, D. Toe-clipping vital to amphibian research. Nature 493, 305 (2013).

Download citation

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:

Further reading


Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing