Ecology

Frogs Leap to Extinction

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Science  02 May 2008:
Vol. 320, Issue 5876, pp. 586
DOI: 10.1126/science.320.5876.586d

The causes of recently documented declines in frogs since the 1980s have been hotly debated. One vigorously promulgated hypothesis is that the decline has been triggered by climate change, which has promoted virulence in a previously saprophytic fungus. An orthogonal view is that the decline reflects the spatiotemporal spread of an invasive fungal disease. In either scenario, the fungus is Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, which colonizes frog skin and suffocates the amphibians. The declines have been particularly noticeable among the charismatic harlequin frogs of Central and South America. Lips et al. have developed a technique to analyze the unavoidably incomplete frog census data (due to infrequent sampling, remote habitats, and sociopolitical challenges) and see wavelike progressions of population falloffs that look very much like the spread of an invasive pathogen originating from three source locales. They categorically found no relation with climate change; indeed, the fungus does best at altitudes where conditions are cool and moist. — CA

PloS Biol. 6, e72 (2008).

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