A dangerous mushroom has already erased amphibians from the face of the Earth: now new species are under threat

Brazilian scientists, supported by the FAPESP Sao Paulo Research Foundation, have identified an unprecedented

mortality among saddle or pumpkin toads.These tiny animals inhabit the rainforests of the Atlantic Ocean. The animals were seriously infected with chytrid (Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis), which causes chytridiomycosis.

Chytridiomycosis is an infectious disease in amphibians caused by a nonhyphalous zoosporic fungus.

Research published in the journal Biological Conservation, has shown that the mushroom is also a threatfor amphibians that breed on land. At the same time, animals, which play an important ecological role, suffer from it. For example, they eat insects that transmit diseases such as Dengue fever, yellow fever, and Zika virus. Decreases in amphibian populations due to B. dendrobatidis infection have already been linked to outbreaks of malaria in the 1990s and 2000s in Panama and Costa Rica.

Credit: Diego Moura-Campos / UNICAMP.

“The fungus affects the skin of an amphibian.The infection causes a physiological imbalance and the animal eventually dies of a heart attack, ”says Diego Moura-Campos, the first author of the scientific article. The study was carried out under the auspices of the project "Chitrid mushroom in Brazil: origins and consequences".

Previously, scientists studied the fungus from different angles, butthey rarely saw animals die of fungal infections in the wild. This is the first study to demonstrate this phenomenon in Brazil.

Now the fungus is especially dangerous for species thatbreed on land (no tadpoles and fully formed miniature adults hatch from eggs). Aquatic species may have been in contact with the pathogen longer and may have developed some semblance of immunity to infection.

The mushroom originated in Asia, on the Korean Peninsula, and,probably spread around the world as a result of the frog meat trade in the early 20th century. It has already caused a decline in populations of at least 501 amphibian species worldwide. In Brazil alone, at least 50 species were affected, 12 became extinct and 38 declined.

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