David C. Blackburn

  • Assistant Curator
  • Herpetology
  • PhD

Current Research includes:

Deep-time historical biogeography and phylogeography of continental Africa, with study of biodiversity in diverse habitats including mountains, tropical forests, and Saharan oases

Evolution of morphological diversity in amphibians, including morphological novelty, developmental and functional morphology, and patterns of ecomorphological change

Systematics of frogs from sub-Saharan Africa, with descriptions of new species and estimation of phylogenetic relationships using molecular and morphological data


Museum-based historical approaches to understanding origin and spread of the amphibian-specific pathogen Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis

2002–2008    Ph.D. Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology. Harvard University.
1998–2001    A.B. Biology. University of Chicago.

2011–present    Assistant Curator, Section of Herpetology, Department of Vertebrate Zoology & Anthropology, California Academy of Sciences.
2008–2011     Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Division of Herpetology, Biodiversity Institute, University of Kansas.
2005–2008    Resident Tutor in Biology, Dunster House, Harvard University
2001–2002    Research Associate, Developmental Biology Core, Children’s Memorial Institute for Education and Research, Chicago, IL
2001        Research Fellow, Department of Paleobiology, National Museum of Natural History. Smithsonian Institution.

Research Publications


Morphological Diversity and Evolution

Trueb, L., R. Diaz, and D.C. Blackburn. 2011. Osteology and chondrocranial morphology of Gastrophryne carolinensis (Anura: Microhylidae), with a review of the osteological diversity of New World microhylids. Phyllomedusa 10: 99–135.

Kerney, R.R., D.C. Blackburn, H. Müller, and J. Hanken. 2012. Do larval traits re-evolve? Evidence from the embryogenesis of a direct-developing salamander, Plethodon cinereus. Evolution 66: 252–262.

Blackburn, D.C. 2009. Diversity and evolution of male secondary sexual characters in African squeakers and long-fingered frogs. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society 96: 553–573.

Blackburn, D.C., J. Hanken, and F.A. Jenkins, Jr. 2008. Concealed weapons: erectile claws in African frogs. Biology Letters 4: 355–357.



Blackburn, D.C. 2012. A new species of Arthroleptis (Anura: Arthroleptidae) from Ngozi Crater in the Poroto Mountains of southwestern Tanzania. Journal of Herpetology 46: 129–135. 

Blackburn, D.C., and D.B. Wake. 2011. Class Amphibia Gray, 1825. [Invited Review]. In: Zhang, Z.-Q. (Ed.), Animal biodiversity: an outline of higher-level classification and survey of taxonomic richness. Zootaxa 3148: 39–55.

Blackburn, D.C., and M. Beier. 2011. “Xenopus paratropicalis” is not a valid name. Zootaxa 3035: 57–58.

Blackburn, D.C., and M.-O. Rödel. 2011. A new puddle frog (Phrynobatrachidae: Phrynobatrachus) from the Obudu Plateau in eastern Nigeria. Herpetologica 67: 271–287.

Duellman, W.E., A. Catenazzi, and D.C. Blackburn. 2011. A new species of marsupial frog (Anura: Hemiphractidae: Gastrotheca) from the Andes of southern Peru. Zootaxa 3095: 1–14.

Duellman, W.E., K.-H. Jungfer, and D.C. Blackburn. 2011. The phylogenetic relationship of geographically separated “Flectonotus” (Anura: Hemiphractidae), as revealed by molecular, behavioral, and morphological data. Phyllomedusa 10: 15–29.

Loader, S.P., J.C. Poynton, L.P. Lawson, D.C. Blackburn, and M. Menegon. 2011. Amphibian diversity in the northwestern Eastern Arc Mountains, Tanzania, with the description of a new species of Arthroleptis (Anura: Arthroleptidae). Fieldiana (Life and Earth Sciences) 2011 (4): 90–102.

Blackburn, D.C. 2010. A new squeaker frog (Arthroleptidae: Arthroleptis) from Bioko Island, Equatorial Guinea. Herpetologica 66: 320–334.

Blackburn, D.C., V. Gvoždik, and A.D. Leaché. 2010. A new squeaker frog (Arthroleptidae: Arthroleptis) from the mountains of Cameroon and Nigeria. Herpetologica 66: 335–348. 

Blackburn, D.C. 2010. A new puddle frog (Phrynobatrachidae: Phrynobatrachus) from the Mambilla Plateau in Eastern Nigeria. African Journal of Herpetology 59: 33–52.

Martin, J.L., D.C. Blackburn, and E.O. Wiley. 2010. Are node-based and stem-based clades equivalent? Insights from graph theory. PLoS Currents: Tree of Life. Online.

Blackburn, D.C. 2009. Description and phylogenetic relationships of two new species of miniature Arthroleptis (Anura: Arthroleptidae) from the Eastern Arc Mountains of Tanzania. Breviora (Museum of Comparative Zoology) 517: 1–17.

Blackburn, D.C., L.N. Gonwouo, R. Ernst, and M.-O. Rödel. 2009. A new squeaker frog (Arthroleptidae: Arthroleptis) from the Cameroon Volcanic Line with redescriptions of Arthroleptis adolfifriederici Nieden, 1911 “1910” and A. variabilis Matschie, 1893. Breviora (Museum of Comparative Zoology) 515: 1–22. 

Blackburn, D.C. 2008. A new species of Cardioglossa (Amphibia: Anura: Arthroleptidae) endemic to Mount Manengouba in the Republic of Cameroon, with an analysis of morphological diversity in the genus. Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society 154: 611–630.

Blackburn, D.C., J. Kosuch, A. Schmitz, M. Burger, P. Wagner, L.N. Gonwouo, A. Hillers, and M.-O. Rödel. 2008. A new species of Cardioglossa (Anura: Arthroleptidae) from the Upper Guinean Forests of West Africa. Copeia 2008: 603–612.

Zimkus, B.M. and D.C. Blackburn. 2008. Distinguishing features of the sub-Saharan frog genera Arthroleptis and Phrynobatrachus: a short guide for field and museum-based researchers. Breviora (Museum of Comparative Zoology) 513: 1–12.

Blackburn, D.C. 2005. Cardioglossa liberiensis Barbour & Loveridge 1927 is a junior synonym of Phrynobatrachus fraterculus (Chabanaud 1921). African Journal of Herpetology 54: 171-179.

Sidor, C.A., D.C. Blackburn, and B. Gado. 2003. The vertebrate fauna of the Upper Permian of Niger—II. Preliminary description of a new pareiasaur. Palaeontologia Africana 39: 45-52.


Conservation, Biodiversity Surveys, and Natural History

Reeder, N.M.M., T. Cheng, V.T. Vredenburg, and D.C. Blackburn. 2011. Survey of the chytrid fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis from montane and lowland frogs in eastern Nigeria. Herpetology Notes 4: 83–86.

Blackburn, D.C., B.J. Evans, A.P. Pessier, and V.T. Vredenburg. 2010. An enigmatic mortality event in the only population of the Critically Endangered Cameroonian frog Xenopus longipes. African Journal of Herpetology 59: 111–122.

Jackson, K., and D.C. Blackburn. 2010. Results of a survey of amphibians and reptiles at degraded sites near Pointe Noire, Kouilou Region, Republic of Congo. Herpetological Conservation and Biology 5: 414–429.

Zimmerman, J., M. Hajibabaei, D.C. Blackburn, J. Hanken, E. Cantin, J. Posfai, and T.C. Evans, Jr. 2008. DNA damage in preserved specimens and tissue samples: a molecular assessment. Frontiers in Zoology 5: 18. Note: Highly Accessed. 

Jackson, K. and D.C. Blackburn. 2007. The amphibians and reptiles of Nouabale-Ndoki National Park, Republic of Congo (Brazzaville). Salamandra 43: 149-164. 

Blackburn, D.C. and C.S. Moreau. 2006. Ontogenetic diet change in the arthroleptid frog Schoutedenella xenodactyloides. Journal of Herpetology 40: 388-394. 


Comparative and Evolutionary Developmental Biology

Riesenberg, A.N., T.T. Le, M.I. Willardsen, D.C. Blackburn, M.L. Vetter, and N.L. Brown. 2009. Pax6 regulation of Math5 during mouse retinal neurogenesis. genesis 47: 175–187. 

Blackburn, D.C., K.W. Conley, D.C. Plachetzki, K. Kempler, B.-A. Battelle, and N.L. Brown. 2008. Isolation and expression of Pax6 and atonal homologues in the American Horseshoe Crab, Limulus polyphemus. Developmental Dynamics 237: 2209-2219.

Harzsch, S., K. Vilpoux, D.C. Blackburn, D. Platchetzki, N. Brown, R. Melzer, K. Kempler, and B. Battelle. 2006. Evolution of arthropod visual systems: development of the eyes and central visual pathways in the horseshoe crab Limulus polyphemus Linnaeus, 1758 (Chelicerata, Xiphosura). Developmental Dynamics 235: 2641-2655.

Stock, S.R., D.C. Blackburn, M. Gradassi, and H.-G. Simon. 2003. Bone formation during forelimb regeneration: A microtomography (microCT) analysis. Developmental Dynamics 226: 410-417.


Minor Publications


Book Review

Blackburn, D.C. 2011. Amphibians and Reptiles of Ethiopia and Eritrea [Book Review]. Quarterly Review of Biology 86: 150.

Blackburn, D.C. 2011. Field Guide to Frogs of Western Australia, Fourth Edition [Book Review]. Herpetological Review 42: 123–124.

Blackburn, D.C. 2010. Herpetology: An Introductory Biology of Amphibians and Reptiles, Third Edition [Book Review]. Quarterly Review of Biology 85: 375–376.

Blackburn, D.C. 2009. Ecological and Environmental Physiology of Amphibians [Book Review]. Herpetological Review 40: 374–376.

Blackburn, D.C. 2007. A Guide to the Reptiles and Amphibians of Egypt [Book Review]. Herpetological Review 38: 251-252. 

Blackburn, D.C. 2006. The Amphibians of East Africa [Book Review]. Herpetological Review 37: 503-504.


Geographic Distribution and Natural History Notes

Blackburn, D.C. 2008. Pyxicephalus sp.: geographic distribution (Niger). Herpetological Review 39: 363–364.  

Blackburn, D.C. and V. Droissart. 2008. Nectophryne batesii: juvenile coloration. Herpetological Review 39: 208-209.

Blackburn, D.C. 2006. Cardioglossa schioetzi: geographic distribution (Cameroon). Herpetological Review 37: 486.

Blackburn, D.C. and K. Jackson. 2006. Cryptothylax greshoffii: geographic distribution (Republic of Congo). Herpetological Review 37: 358.


  • David C. Blackburn
  • Assistant Curator
  • California Academy of Sciences
  • 55 Music Concourse Drive
  • San Francisco, CA 94118
  • 14153795375 (direct)