Frog-killing Fungus Worse than Originally Feared

A fungus wiping out the world's amphibians could be worse than originally thought.

The fungus, Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, was first discovered about 10 years ago, and remains a bit of a mystery. No one knows where it came from, but it has been found all over the globe, and has already affected 30% of the world's amphibian species. It's also unknown how the fungus kills the frogs, although biologists believe it destroys frogs' ability to absorb water through their skin.

In California's Sierra Nevada mountain range, tens of thousands of yellow-legged frogs have been killed over the last few years by chytridiomycosis, a quickly spreading disease caused by the waterborne fungus.

Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley have been frantically studying the fungus. According to a study appearing in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the fungus could be transmitted sexually. If true, that will make it much harder to defeat.

According to the paper's lead author, Jess Morgan, "people could be unwittingly transferring this pathogen around the world from dirt on our shoes or car tires. But spores could also hitchhike on the feathers of birds for quick transport across mountain ranges."

Some of the study's co-authors have tried to repopulate areas where the fungus had wiped out the yellow-legged frog. The new frogs were all re-infected within two years and died.

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