Frog Extinctions and the Chytrid Fungus
Dear SAVE THE FROGS! Supporter,
The chytrid fungus is quite possibly the deadliest organism on the planet (after humans!), and it is decimating amphibian populations worldwide. The fungus has likely driven 100 amphibian species to complete extinction, and nowhere is the effect of the chytrid fungus more pronounced than in Panama and Costa Rica, where many rainforest streams are now nearly completely devoid of frogs. While the chytrid fungus is one of the most significant threats to biodiversity in the 21st century, few herpetologists have any background in the laboratory techniques necessary to detect the fungus, and training classes are rare. Without the ability to diagnose infections, we stand little chance at managing chytridiomycosis, the disease caused by the chytrid fungus.
SAVE THE FROGS! at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama
I recently spent two weeks in Panama City, teaching a course on disease detection techniques at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute. The course, entitled "Instruction and application of quantitative PCR molecular techniques for the study of amphibian epidemics", was jointly offered free of charge by SAVE THE FROGS! and the Herpetological Circle of Panama. The 5-day course was attended by 25 scientists from Panama, Colombia, and Costa Rica, three countries that have experienced severe declines in amphibians due to the chytrid fungus. This course effectively doubled the number of researchers on the planet capable of using quantitative PCR techniques to diagnose chytrid infections.
We plan to offer the course again in Bogota, Colombia in late 2010. You can learn more about the chytrid fungus at http://savethefrogs.com/chytrid, and more about the class at http://savethefrogs.com/chytrid/qpcr.html
Chytrid Detection Protocol Now Available
SAVE THE FROGS! has now made publicly and freely available a detailed protocol for the detection and quantification of the amphibian chytrid fungus using qPCR techniques (the most technologically advanced method of diagnosing infections). This is the most in-depth protocol of its kind in existence, and can be found, along with accompanying slideshow, videos and supplementary materials at:
SAVE THE FROGS! is preparing a massive campaign to stop the chytrid at its source
The chytrid fungus is being rapidly spread around the world because humans ship nearly 100 million amphibians around the planet each year, for food, pets, bait, and for use in zoos and laboratories, usually with a thorough lack of disease testing or quarantine regulations. SAVE THE FROGS! is preparing a massive campaign to stop the chytrid at its source. This means:
Getting frog legs off the menus of large restaurant chains. At least 5 million bullfrogs enter the United States each year from farms around the world, and a recent study showed that up to 62% may be infected with the chytrid fungus. On top of spreading their disease to native US frog populations, these bullfrogs often escape their rearing facilities oversease, and likely spread diseases to those frog populations as well.
(2) Working with large pet frog distributors to encourage or force them to either halt their sales of frogs or to require disease testing and certification of disease-free status.
You can read more about what SAVE THE FROGS! is doing to stop the chytrid fungus at:
We Need Your Help To Stop The Chytrid!
We need to raise $5,000 this week to kickstart this campaign. Can you help out? Remember, the chytrid fungus has already caused 100 amphibian species to go completely extinct, and SAVE THE FROGS! is the ONLY organization offering chytrid detection classes and working with restaurants and pet frog distributors to reduce the likelihood of disease transfer. We don't have any time to lose, so please take action.
Please donate $20 right now to help us SAVE THE FROGS!
Panama - October 3, 2009
When I wasn't in the lab teaching, I was usually out looking for frogs...you can read all my frogging adventures and see lots of great photos in this month's SAVE THE FROGS! Members Newsletter.
I woke up early and walked to the lodge to find Antonio, who was to take me to “La Cascada (The Waterfall), to find Atelopus limosus. Sixty-seven of the world’s 110 Atelopus species have gone extinct in the last few decades, and I had never seen one, so I was quite excited for the hike. Antonio couldn’t go, but his father offered to be my guide. We walked about an hour before coming to a beautiful stream. We crossed it and climbed steeply uphill. We then descended into a steep and narrow rainforest-clad canyon, from which fell a beautiful waterfall into a deep pool. The mist of the waterfall made the rocks slippery, so we made our way carefully down. The Atelopus are diurnal stream-dwellers, and I was told they like that spot (I liked that spot so I could understand their choice). I didn’t see any, so Antonio’s father told me to cross to the other side. The stream was only a couple meters wide, but deep. I climbed up the rocks on the other side and saw the flash of a poison dart frog. It was Colostethus panamensis. There were a good number of them jumping around the rocks, and some tadpoles. This was a good sign, as many populations of this species in western Panama have been driven to extinction by the chytrid fungus. But no Atelopus. On principle, I jumped into the pool and swam up to the waterfall. On the walk back, we spent a half hour at the other stream looking for the Atelopus. Antonio’s father told me that when he came here as a boy he would always see them, but about ten years ago their numbers decreased. We didn't find any.
We got back to Burbayar and a heavy downpour greeted us. I started driving back towards Panama City. The rain was so hard I could barely see. I reached the city a couple hours later but kept driving, crossing the Bridge of the Americas, and heading westward towards the mountains of El Valle, where most of the frogs had disappeared three years earlier...
Get the SAVE THE FROGS! Members Newsletter mailed to your door when you become an official Member of SAVE THE FROGS!. Sign up by October 15th and you will still be able to read the full story of my travels in Panama...and see some great photos! Plus all new members receive great free gifts...so join SAVE THE FROGS today!
Why We Should Be Very Worried
I was recently invited to write an article for EcoHearth, entitled 'The Disappearance of Frogs: Why We Should Be Very Worried', which details the importance of protecting the world's remaining frog populations, and what we can expect if frogs continue to disappear. The article was recently published and you can read it here.
Congratulations to Dr. Franco Andreone
SAVE THE FROGS! Advisory Committee Member Dr. Franco Andreone was recently awarded the Sabin Award for his excellent work conserving the amphibians of Madagascar. Congratulations Dr. Andreone, and keep up the great work!
Spread The Word!
Please pass this message on to your friends and family, and help us spread the word about amphibian extinctions.
Together we can SAVE THE FROGS!
Dr. Kerry Kriger
SAVE THE FROGS!
Founder, Executive Director & Ecologist