The New Plague…For Frogs

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The New Plague…For Frogs

Zack Fogarty

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Since the mid 1900s, many frogs around the world have been dying off at an alarming rate. For a while scientists didn’t make any connection between the enigmatic drops in population around the world. Last week, we finally made a step toward supporting the many dying frogs. A study was released that formally identified the deadly disease, a chytrid fungus called Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd). The study also released an accurate count of the effects of the effects of the fungal disease. The study reported that 500 different species of frogs have been victim to Bd; 90 of these species are presumed extinct, and another 120 species’ populations have declined by 90%. Bd has become the most pandemic disease ever recorded, and what’s worse is that these counts are conservative, as they don’t include any damage to frog population prior to the 1970s.

The physical effects of Bd are almost as horrifying as the demographic effects. The fungus invades the skin cells of frogs and multiplies. As the fungus spreads, feeding on the proteins under the skin, the frog will slow down as it’s skin starts to peel away, leading to death. The fungus is also easily spread. It can be exchanged between skin contact and can live on the surface of mostly stagnant water. So if a frog afflicted with Bd makes its way to a pond or small stream, every other frog that goes into the water is at risk of infection. Bd can also survive on the water’s surface for over a month, maybe a year.

The constant trade and war between countries has been a huge effector of how Bd has been able to spread and how much damage it has been able to do. Now, the entire world has been exposed to Bd, doing most of its destruction to populations in Central and South America. The fungus originated in Asia, specifically in the Korean Peninsula, so Asian frogs have developed a defense against the effects of Bd.

It’s impossible to undo the effects of Bd since so many species have already been wiped out, but we can keep the situation from spiraling further out of control. Our focus now, should be to avoid spreading Bd any further by curbing the international pet trade, not just of frogs but for any species that could spread Bd. We should also put forth effort to reduce the danger to frogs from other sources, especially habitat destruction and invasive species.