- LONDON (www.foxnews.com) Zoologists have discovered a mysterious new
fungus that is killing the world's frogs and toads, New Scientist magazine
said on Wednesday.
- They think the unnamed fungus that suffocates
the amphibians by coating their undersides and legs could be the cause
of a major decline in frogs reported around the globe.
- Scientists do not know where the fungus
came from or how it spread but it has struck 10 species of frogs and toads
in 10 areas of Australia, seven species in Panama and six species in American
zoos and aquariums.
- "There is little doubt that this
is a worldwide phenomenon,'' veterinary pathologist Allan Pessier, of the
National Zoological Park in Washington, told the magazine.
- The fungus, which was discovered independently
by researchers in the United States and Australia, belongs to a new genus
of chytrid, a group thought to be related to the earliest fungi.
- "The scientists don't yet know if
the fungus is the primary cause of death, or is killing the animals weakened
by other factors, such as ultraviolet radiation penetrating the atmosphere
due to the thinned ozone layer or agricultural chemicals,'' the magazine
- The fungus has been in American zoos
since 1988 and was found in Australia in 1993.
- Pessier and his colleague Don Nichols
teamed up with Joyce Longcore of the University of Maine to identify the
fungus. Meanwhile, researchers from the Australian Animal Health Laboratory
near Melbourne made a similar discovery which will be reported in the Proceedings
of the National Academy of Sciences next month.
- The researchers, who are not sure if
the frogs which breathe through their skins are suffocating because of
the fungus or if it is releasing a toxin, called for further research.
- "Multidisciplinary teams of scientists
need to work out exactly what role this fungus is playing and what can
be done about it,'' said Pessier.