Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Prince Edward Island Frogs Dying From Fungus Infections

Pictures by Mark McMahon

A fungus that's potentially deadly for frogs has been found in ponds on Prince Edward Island. Prince Edward Island is one of Canada’s scenic jewels – a rugged little island with a beauty carved by nature. (Couldn't resist a little plug for one of my favourite provinces.) Unfortunately, PEI (Prince Edward Island) is not the only place to be hit by the fungal frog-killer, Chytrid. It is just the latest in a long string of places to fall victim to this disease.

Already Golden frogs are extinct; up to 1/3 of the world’s frog species are under threat of extinction; and, 50% of all frog species are in serious trouble.

This crisis began in the 1980s and scientists are saying this has the potential to be the largest mass extinction since the disappearance of the dinosaurs. Surely, a fungus can’t be responsible for all this devastation, can it? Think again…

Chytrid is an infection that is causing problems for frog populations around the world. The fungus, which lives in the skin of the frog, is causing 200 species of frogs to either severely decline or become extinct.

This summer, a team of researchers swabbed 114 frogs at 18 ponds across the island. Unfortunately, over 50% of those swabbed tested positive for chytrid. "Some of the frogs actually go into spasms, sort of like having a seizure," Maria Forzan, a wildlife pathologist with the Canadian Co-operative Wildlife Health Centre, told CBC News last week. She added, "They lose weight very quickly and; within three or four days, basically they're dead."

To date, the fungus is not killing many frogs on PEI. Most of the ponds tested were found to be infected; but, amazingly only one dead frog was found. The frog was severely infected and the team suspect that’s what killed it.

"The fungus doesn't like temperatures that are too hot or too cold, so it might be that the weather will actually work in the favour of the frogs, at least in the Maritimes," said Forzan.

Forzan and a team of biologists from UPEI (University of Prince Edward Island) plan to continue their research in order to determine what damage the fungus is causing the island frogs. Chytrid poses no threat to humans, Forzan hastens to add.

She hopes that the public will help stop the spread of the fungus on the island ponds by taking preventative measures such as: disinfecting their boots after every pond visit; not moving frogs from one pond to the other; and, disinfecting any equipment used, such as nets, after each pond visit.

More on the worldwide problem: (Part 1)

(Part 2)

For more information on this fungal epidemic, visit the sites below:

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