Frogs, salamanders and toads suffering ‘catastrophic population decline’, scientists say

Fungal disease chytridiomycosis has lead to ‘greatest recorded loss of biodiversity attributable to a disease’

The golden toad of Costa Rica (Incilius periglenes) is now considered to be extinct after it was last seen in the cloud forest of Monteverde
The golden toad of Costa Rica (Incilius periglenes) is now considered to be extinct after it was last seen in the cloud forest of Monteverde

Amphibians across the world are experiencing “catastrophic population declines” from a widening range of interacting pathogens, scientists say.

Fungal disease chytridiomycosis is thought to have caused the extinction of 90 amphibian species around the world and the marked decline of at least 491 others over the last 20 years.

According to Dr Benjamin Scheele, the lead author of a study into chytridiomycosis, it is “the greatest recorded loss of biodiversity attributable to a disease”.

But now amphibians are also under attack from another pathogen known as the ranavirus, which exists in at least four varieties.

In addition scientists have found that there are at least two species of chytridiomycosis, and within these, many different genetic types.

In response to the demise of worldwide amphibian populations, this week zoological experts will gather in London in a bid to develop an emergency plan to save these creatures.

A description of the event on the Zoological Society of London’s website reads: “Amphibians continue to experience worldwide declines and remain the most threatened vertebrate class.

The Rabbs‘ fringe-limbed tree frog of Panama (Ecnomiohyla rabborum) went extinct after its popultion was devastated by chytridiomycosis

“Nearly 30 years of research has shown that pathogens, in particular chytridiomycete fungi and ranaviruses, are responsible for infectious diseases that cause catastrophic population and host community declines on all continents where amphibians exist.”

Among the 90 species of amphibians wiped out since chytridiomycosis began taking its toll across the world are the golden toad in Costa Rica (Incilius periglenes), the southern gastric-brooding frog of Australia (Rheobatrachus silus), and Arthur’s stubfoot toad (Atelopus arthuri) in Ecuador.

Researchers believe that globalisation and the wildlife trade are the main causes behind the spread of this global pandemic.

Support free-thinking journalism and attend Independent events

“Humans are moving plants and animals around the world at an increasingly rapid rate, introducing pathogens into new areas,” Dr Scheele said.

The rise of these fungal diseases are not only damaging to amphibian populations, but are also harmful to the environment. This is because frogs, salamanders and toads play an important role in maintaining healthy ecosystems, for instance by eating mosquitoes that spread disease.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in