Frogs are in trouble. A third of all frog species are threatened with extinction. The usual culprits of habitat loss and climate change are at work, but another more insidious threat looms. A devastating disease called chytridiomycosis has been wiping out frogs, often from pristine habitats. The disease is caused by a fungus – amphibian chytrid fungus (pronounced kit-tyrid). The fungus disrupts the skin function of infected frogs leading to cardiac arrest (heart attack).
The numbers are sobering. Since the identification of chytrid by Australian researchers in 1998, the pathogen has been documented in over 500 amphibian species, and is now found on all continents (except Antarctica). Fortunately, the pathogen is not universally deadly with some species demonstrating high resistance (though this produces some problems of its own).