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Dead frogs killed from the amphibian chytrid fungus. Photo: Joel Sartore/NatGeo
In the early 1990s, researchers linked the mass die-offs of frogs around the world to a fungus they named Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, or Bd for short. The fungus ravages frogs’ skin and makes it peel off–which for amphibians, their skin is critical to their survival. Now, as NatGeo recently reported, “a global team of 41 scientists has announced that the pathogen—which humans unwittingly spread around the world—has damaged global biodiversity more than any other disease ever recorded.” The fungus has led to the decline of at least 501 amphibian species over the past half-century, including 90 presumed extinctions.
The new study showed that some amphibians are at greater risk than others. The fungus thrives in cool, moist conditions. As a result, frogs that live in cloud forests on mountainsides have been hit particularly hard.
Big frogs are at a greater risk, too, possibly because they don’t multiply as quickly as small ones.
Certain factors once thought to account for the decimation of frog populations — like climate change and deforestation — are not the greatest threats, the scientists found
Bd wiped out some species long before it was discovered. Only by going back to museum specimens were scientists able to estimate the toll.
The decimation of frogs peaked in the 1980s, the researchers found, a decade before the discovery of Bd. Today, 39 percent of the species that suffered population declines in the past are still declining. Twelve percent are showing signs of recovery, possibly because natural selection is favoring resistant animals.
Why This Matters:Frogs and other amphibians affected by Bd are critical to the food webs and their home environments, if they’re wiped out then that could have serious consequences for other animals. In addition to being an indicator species and controlling insects, frogs also save human lives through medicine and we simply can’t afford to lose them. While scientists have found ways to eradicate Bd in some frog populations, at present, wild populations can’t be cured on a global scale. Public policy, namely restricting the trade of amphibians, can help slow the spread of the deadly fungus and give scientists time for further research and means to suppress its spread.
by Ashira Morris, ODP Staff Writer The ocean is warming, and marine life is moving to survive. Tropical waters around the equator were the richest with species, but it’s now too hot for some of them to survive, according to a new study. Looking at 48,661 marine species, the study found marine life drops off […]
I (Monica) am feeling a bit of ocean optimism these days, and videos like this are definitely fueling it. I have actually been whale watching with the California company that posted this video from a March 19th trip, but we did not observe anything quite like this! It’s a pretty rare occurrence to see thousands […]
We will fully admit to being whale crazy! And we have been watching the North Atlantic Right Whale population over the last few years of its decline to only about 360 remaining. Which is why this good news is so, well, great! Calving season just ended and it appears that there have been 18 births […]
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