Monday, September 26, 2022

Floods may increase fungal threat to frogs

A biologist fears the mysterious mass death of Australian frogs last year could happen again this winter, exacerbated by recent floods.

Jodi Rowley is still trying to figure out why so many frogs were found sick, dying or dead in eastern Victoria, NSW and Queensland last winter.

She knows that the amphibian chytrid fungus that attacks the skin is the least involved, even if it’s not the complete picture.

Most of the 350 frog carcasses collected and frozen for the past year by concerned citizens have tested positive for the pathogen, which has caused frogs to become extinct around the world, including at least four in Australia.

This has Dr. Rowley worrying about the months ahead.

The recent floods have created perfect conditions for the fungus to thrive during the winter, when the frogs’ immune systems are naturally suppressed in cold weather.

“We know that the amphibian chytrid fungus is the least involved in dying off and in weather conditions like this, where it’s not too hot and very, very wet—that doesn’t bode well,” she says.

“The favorable conditions of the fungus and the slowing of the frogs’ immune systems mean they can become ill.”

When the death toll began to unravel last July, Dr Rowley and her Australian Museum colleagues were unable to take the field to investigate because of pandemic restrictions.

The only reason they have any proof they work is because Australians didn’t mind storing small victims in their freezers until vet and frog undertaker Tom Parkin could pick them up. .

Things are much more free this year and researchers will be monitoring the health of the frogs, with a special focus on NSW, which was heavily affected. They will also visit national parks to see what is happening to threatened species.

Still, Dr Rowley is hopeful that Australians will continue to help by reporting frog disease and deaths by emailing [email protected]

“The only way we can help our frogs is if everyone is involved. We very much hope we never see dead and sick frogs at people’s doors again.”

The amphibian chytrid fungus is not a new threat to Australia and the pathogen is not always fatal. Some species tolerate it well, and the fungus is often found in individuals who appear to be unaffected.

Jane Hall is a wildlife disease ecologist with the Australian Wildlife Health Registry at the Taronga Conservation Society and is one of the detectives trying to unravel the mystery behind the dying.

They believe something other than the fungus is going on.

“Free-ranging wildlife encounters pathogens all the time. Often they are able to fight off those infections, but sometimes, if the conditions are right, things can go a little sideways and that’s when we get these unusual deaths.” incidents are found.”

Exposure to toxins, such as pesticides, is another method of investigation, but so far tests have revealed nothing that can explain the wide geographic range of the dead.

“It’s very unusual to notice so many people and that’s how we know there’s something wrong going on there,” says Ms. Hall.

“There will be something that ties a lot of these together and it’s just a matter of taking things apart, filtering the results, and trying to figure out the most appropriate story.”

Nation World News Desk
Nation World News Desk
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