Killer Fungus Attacks Rare Frog Species


Hemiphractus fasciatus. It carries its eggs on its back. Photo: Roberto Brenes, via Discovery News
Rare Frogs Threatened with Extinction
Many of the rarest species of frogs in the rainforests of Central America are vanishing. The culprit? It's apparently a type of fungus that seems to be deadlier for rare frogs than for common ones, which is leading to a homogenization of the local ecosystems. This is bad, not only for the local food chain, but also for eco-tourism in Central America and for medical science ("scientists have found potential cancer therapies in amphibian skin").

"This frog species, Hylomantis lemur, was a reasonably widespread species, originally present at five study sites. After the fungus passed through the region, it could no longer be found at any site." Photo: Roberto Brenes, via Discovery News
Discovery News writes:

His results, published in the journal Ecology Letters, showed that in Central America at least, the fungus seems to target the rarest of species, which often exist only in one or two sites across the region. It's not yet clear why rare frogs are succumbing most frequently to the [Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd)] fungus. But as they disappear, so often do the roles they fill in the ecosystem.

"If you knock out a very rare species from the only place it exists, of course that's going to be an extinction."

The new findings add another disheartening dimension to the biodiversity crisis, said Tom Rooney, an ecologist at Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio. The loss of variety, he said, makes it increasingly hard for the species that are left behind to deal with further environmental change.

Via Discovery News
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