A Deadly Disease
Amphibian chytrid is a disease that infects the skin of amphibians, a vital organ through which many drink and breathe. This fungus is causing such a threat to amphibians that it is estimated that 500 species need to be taken into captivity to prevent them from dying out.
On the 3rd December 2002, the first outbreak of this disease was reported in the village of Galion, Dominica. In environments where it thrives, the fungus can kill 80 per cent of the native amphibians within months.
Currently, it is unstoppable and untreatable in the wild, even in ‘protected’ areas. Amphibian chytrid is believed to have originated in Africa. The export of African clawed frogs around the world for human pregnancy testing and lab studies spread this disease worldwide. Recently, the food and pet trades may have contributed to the problem as well.
The chytrid’s spread and effects may be exacerbated by climate change – warmer temperatures dry the moist areas where amphibians live, causing stress that may lead to greater susceptibility to the disease.
Scientists estimate that more than a third of all 6,000 amphibian species could die out by the end of the century and about 100 have been identified as likely to be extinct within a decade unless they are protected. This would be the largest mass extinction since the disappearance of the dinosaurs.
Habitat loss and climate change are among the other factors threatening the survival of amphibians.A mphibians are considered important indicators of emerging environmental threats: they are among the first species to be affected by environmental stressors. Their worrying plight should be a warning about the future dangers for other animal groups and humans.