Toad task force

Apr 06, 2011

An army of volunteers will be wading into ponds across the UK this spring to map the spread of a killer amphibian fungus.

Scientists from the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) are working with 400 volunteers recruited by and Reptile Groups of the UK (ARG-UK) to swab more than 6,000 amphibians for the presence of (Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis).

Teams of volunteers will be heading out after dark between April and June to swab amphibians in more than 200 ponds across the UK. The Defra-funded survey will include 100 more sites than the last chytrid survey in 2008, with volunteers in action in Northern Ireland for the first time.

In addition to sampling common , natterjack toads and the UK's three species of native newt, volunteers will also be swabbing non-native species such as the alpine newt and marsh frog. ZSL scientists are targeting new species and covering more locations in a bid to create a more complete picture of the UK's chytrid infection.

Chytrid causes the disease chytridiomycosis, which results in the thickening of amphibian skin and prevents the transfer of vital salts across it. Scientists are now racing against time to understand how the deadly disease is spread and which species are most at risk.

"Chytrid has had devastating effects on across the globe, even causing some to become extinct. It is essential that we understand where the fungus occurs in the UK so that we can identify the toads and newts that are under threat from succumbing to the disease," said Freya Smith, scientific coordinator of the survey at ZSL.

Jonathan Cranfield, vice-chair of ARG-UK said: "The volunteers play a critical role in helping us to understand what is happening in our ponds. Ensuring the future of our best-loved amphibians would not be possible without the dedication and enthusiasm of the volunteer network."

The volunteers will collect samples of DNA from 30 amphibians at each site by swabbing the surface of their skin. The samples will then be analysed in laboratories at ZSL to check for the presence of chytrid fungus.

Explore further: South American parrot in trouble: researchers

Related Stories

Bullfrogs may be deadly fungus carriers

May 24, 2006

A British-led study suggests the introduction of the North American bullfrog into many nations might be causing the spread of a deadly fungus.

Bacteria show promise in fending off global amphibian killer

May 23, 2007

First in a petri dish and now on live salamanders, probiotic bacteria seem to repel a deadly fungus being blamed for worldwide amphibian deaths and even extinctions. Though the research is in its early stages, scientists ...

Recommended for you

South American parrot in trouble: researchers

10 hours ago

A South American parrot with a wine-colored chest is in deep trouble, with its population down to some 3,000 and a habitat reduced to a speck of what it once was, researchers said Tuesday.

From worker to queen at the drop of a gene

19 hours ago

Biologists from the University of Leicester have discovered that one of nature's most important pollinators - the buff-tailed bumblebee – either ascends to the status of queen or remains a lowly worker ...

What is the best way to kill a cane toad?

21 hours ago

Like many pests, cane toads are killed in their thousands in Australia every year, especially by community-based 'toad-busting' groups. New research has now revealed the most humane way to do it.

Petrels tracked across the Oceans

21 hours ago

Staff at British Antarctic Survey (BAS) are following the journeys of White-chinned Petrel fledglings as they make their first journeys over the South Atlantic Ocean in search of food. The birds have been ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.