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A Deadly Fungus Is Driving Frogs to Extinction World Over

by Abdul-Salaam  Earth Times  February 19, 2007
Atlanta, Georgia

A deadly fungus is killing several species of amphibians and scientists are worried that these, especially frogs, may face extinction if the infection remained unchecked.

Amphibian Ark, an initiative that aims to ensure the future of amphibians, assembled scientists from across the world Thursday last to discuss a worldwide plan to save the threatened species that include besides frogs, toads and salamanders.

The project is recommending that since it is difficult to save the amphibians in the wild, zoos, aquariums and botanical gardens across the world should construct special bio-secure facilities for 500 each of the nearly 2,000 endangered species. The plan is to collect the frogs, clean them of the fungus and release them into captive environment.

Amphibian Ark estimates that the total cost of the project could be in the range of $400 million to $ 500 million, including research and related activities, and the scientists are organizing a global fundraising campaign and planning to name 2008 as the year of the frog.
Many of the scientists believe the threat that frogs face is similar to the threat of extinction that faced the dinosaurs. Already some 170 of the 6,000 species have become extinct in the last 10 years and the fungus is threatening nearly 2,000 more.

The fungus has been identified as the chytrid fungus, which was initially noticed in Africa, but has spread to other continents. First discovered and named in 1998, it is a microscopic parasite that attacks the outer layers of the amphibians' skin, making it difficult for them to use their pores and regulate water intake.

Scientists say amphibians are prone to new diseases as their skin is permeable. Changes in environment, global warming, pollution and large scale destruction of the forested areas aggravate the problem.

The scientists say the destruction of amphibians in large numbers is a major threat to humans as amphibians play a critical role in the ecosystem, functioning as a middle system in food chains. It has been found that in the absence of tadpoles in streams in the forests of Panama, a hyperprolific algae is spreading, which is changing the whole ecology and water chemistry.

Amphibians are also known to eat insects and without them these insects could go unchecked and may pose a public health and food-related hazard. They have also a role to play in creating medicines for humans. A chemical on the skins of a particular variety of frogs is an effective pain reliever.

Source: Earth Times

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