Midwife toads that live in the mountains are highly likely to die from a serious fungal infection, called chytridiomycosis, whereas their infected relatives in the lowlands are not, according to new research published today in Ecology Letters.
The authors of the study, from Imperial College London, the Zoological Society of London and the BiodivERsA project RACE, say their findings suggest conservationists may be able to limit the impact of the disease in the mountains by ensuring tourists do not transfer it between lakes.
During the five year study, the researchers found that no midwife toads at low altitudes died as a result of fungal infection, whereas up to 100 per cent of those at high altitudes died. The mortality rate of toads at high altitudes fluctuated over the five years.
The fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd), also known as chytrid fungus, grows in the skin of amphibians, causing a disease called chytridiomycosis. The fungus has caused many species of frog and toad to become extinct and human activity has spread the fungus across the world, affecting an estimated 50 per cent of amphibian species.
Although infection usually is invisible to the naked eye, it can cause skin discolouration and ulceration and lead to convulsions. Previous research shows that infection kills amphibians by causing heart failure. The fungus is particularly prevalent in Australia and the Americas, where its spread is well studied. However, little was known about Bd in Europe before today’s study.
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