A team of international scientists including some from the Zoological Society of London has revealed that a potentially devastating amphibian pathogen is present on Madagascar an island once thought to be free of this fungus.
Madagascar houses four percent of the world’s amphibian species. Conservationists worry that the funguses presence in Madagascar could devastate amphibian diversity worldside.
More than 4,100 frogs across Madagascar were screened by a team of international researchers. Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd) a type of chytrid fungus was found in five remote areas of the island. This devastating fungus has already wiped out species such as the Mountain Chicken frog from Dominica.
500 frog species are seen as being at risk with almost all of them found exclusively on Madagascar. Scientists from ZSL continue to research where the fungus originated on the island and how it will affect the frogs that live there.
A co-author of the paper and researcher for ZSL, Goncalo M. Rosa said, “For several years Madagascar was thought to be a chytrid-free area, but these findings may suggest that the fungus has been present for a while and not exclusively as a result of recent introduction, as we have seen in places such as Europe or Montserrat.”
“We are still trying to figure out whether these findings could be as devastating to Madagascan amphibians as it has been in other regions, or if they have been living with the fungus for years. This would be a more optimistic scenario.”
Another lot of research being undertaken by Professor Matthew Fisher, from the School of Public Health at Imperial College London is working on determining if the fungus on Madagascar has the same devastating lineage as that which has already wiped out a third of the planet’s amphibian species.
“Our initial results show that the type of Bd on Madagascar is very similar to the deadly lineage that has emerged worldwide, but more work needs to be done to confirm this finding,” said Fisher.
Chytrid fungus has caused a severe decline in amphibian populations throughout America, Australia, Europe and East Africa. It changes the keratin levels in the outer skin layers of the frogs meaning they are unable to hydrate themselves or absorb essential minerals. Eventually this leads to the death of the frog.
Rosa explained steps ZSL is taking to help amphibians, “ZSL is actively researching how to mitigate the impact of Bd. It’s essential to take the lessons learned from other places that have been severely affected by this pathogen in order to help us safeguard the future of Madagascan amphibians.”
Photo Credits: “Golden mantella”. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.5 via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Golden_mantella.JPG#/media/File:Golden_mantella.JPG
Read the full report here – http://www.nature.com/srep/2015/150305/srep08633/full/srep08633.html