Scientists warn of pandemic endangering amphibians

Amphibians play a major role in maintaining aquatic environmental quality
Amphibians play a major role in maintaining aquatic environmental quality

A deadly disease affecting amphibians has descended into a global pandemic that has already wiped out 90 species, a prominent US biologist warned Thursday at the World Organisation for Animal Health Aquatic Conference in Santiago, Chile.

Chytridiomycosis is caused by a —Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis—that attacks the skin of frogs, toads and other amphibians.

As the creatures use their skin to breathe and regulate their bodies' , the damage caused by the disease eventually leads to and death.

Jonathan Kolby, co-author of a study published in March on the fungus' devastating effects, lamented what he described as "the first global wild disease issue."

"It's over 60 countries right now, and that's part of the problem," he said.

Over the past five years, the highly contagious disease has already caused nearly 90 species to disappear, with over 500 impacted.

The rapid global spread of the fungus is due to a lack of animal trade rules and airport surveillance, which allows wildlife to be imported without examination.

"To solve it we have to focus on regulation," said Kolby, who worked on the study alongside around 40 other international experts.

"Globalization is good for people but it has consequences to animals," he added. In the US alone, five million amphibians enter the country every year.

Currently, the disease is most widespread in Latin America and Australia, with trade with Asia—where the fungus originated—blamed for the spread.

Scientists also believe a genetic mutation of the fungus may have made it more dangerous.

Amphibians play a major role in maintaining aquatic environmental quality. They also feed on mosquitoes, which carry human diseases such as malaria and the Zika virus.

Explore further

Mass amphibian extinctions globally caused by fungal disease

© 2019 AFP

Citation: Scientists warn of pandemic endangering amphibians (2019, April 5) retrieved 18 August 2019 from
This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.

Feedback to editors

User comments

Apr 07, 2019
After the massive die-off 65 million years ago the amphibians did exceptionally well underwater and forfeited the land to mammal-like reptiles.

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