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Amphibian fungus conquers neotropics

Posted on behalf of Emma Marris

frogcropped.bmpChytridiomycosis, a virulent fungal disease of amphibians, now affects the entire mountainous neotropics. The fungus has spread through Central America, as well as other sites around the world, killing frogs in great numbers since at least the 1970s. And yesterday, scientists at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama announced that they had found infected frogs at a site bordering the Darien National Park, previously the only area to escape the infection.

“Everyone was looking at this one little teeny blank spot on the map,” says Brian Gratwicke, biologist at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in Washington D.C. “In terms of global amphibian conservation priorities, that was considered the best shot. And now that window of opportunity is closing.” He adds that a consortium of researchers – the Panama Amphibian Rescue and Conservation Project – are racing to collect the frogs and find places to keep them alive in captivity. “Right now we are keeping them in shipping containers,” he says.

Pictured: The Toad Mountain harlequin frog (Atelopus certus), endemic to the Darien. The Panama Amphibian Rescue and Conservation Project has already established captive colonies of the frog. Credit: Brian Gratwicke, Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute

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    Uncle Al said:

    In one of those remarkable coincidences that defy human understanding, Chytridiomycosis has propagated everywhere researchers have visited. What could possibly be its transport modality?

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    Jennifer said:

    Well when you consider that fungus can actually survive in outer space, the complete saturation shouldn’t be that surprising. However, they are a really interesting species in that they only consume decaying matter for the most part so I think the problems stated are perhaps overblown.

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