Toad task force

April 6, 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: Panamanian amphibians attacked by fungus

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

Huddling rats behave as a 'super-organism'

September 3, 2015

Rodents huddle together when it is cold, they separate when it is warm, and at moderate temperatures they cycle between the warm center and the cold edges of the group. In a new study published in PLOS Computational Biology, ...

Fighting explosives pollution with plants

September 3, 2015

Biologists at the University of York have taken an important step in making it possible to clean millions of hectares of land contaminated by explosives.

0 comments

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.