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  • The Golden toad of Monteverde, Costa Rica, last seen in 1989, was among the first casualties of amphibian declines.

    The Golden toad of Monteverde, Costa Rica, last seen in 1989, was among the first casualties of amphibian declines. | Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Published 29 March 2019
Opinion

Chytridiomycosis, an incredibly toxic wildlife disease, has contributed to the extinction of 90 different species.

A fungus-borne disease that has spread to over 60 countries has been killing large populations of amphibians over the last 50 years.

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Chytridiomycosis, a very toxic wildlife disease, has contributed to the extinction of 90 different species, so far. The most affected regions are Australia, Central America and South America.

The disease, which according to Dr. Ben Scheele of The Australian National University in Canberra "is contributing to the Earth's sixth mass extinction," has led conservationists to call for heightened biosecurity and wildlife trade restrictions.

Dr. Scheele laments the loss of "some really amazing species."

Researchers managed to identify the cause, a fungus called Betrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd), which affects the animals' skin by essentially "eating them alive." The fungus belongs to a family of harmless fungi found in soil and water.

The fungus has caused or threatened the extinction of 6.5 percent of known amphibian species, totaling around 500 different species. The species threatened have witnessed a decline of more than 90 percent. While the fungus is the main contributor to this decline, when combined with other factors such as habitat loss and climate change, the effects reach even more devastating levels. 

Because "humans are moving plants and animals around the worlds at an increasingly rapid rate," Dr. Scheele says the globalization of the wildlife trade market - particularly pet trade - is "introducing pathogens into new areas" and facilitating the disease to spread.

Dan Greenberg and Wendy Palen of Simon Fraser University listed "protect habitat, limit the collection of wild populations and restrict trade," as management protocol that exists to address some of the stressors that threaten thousands of species. 

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