Monday, 23 May 2016

(Are there) continental-scale drivers of amphibian decline

A new paper published in Scientific Reports (link) tested whether there are continental-scale drivers of amphibian decline (including Bd habitat suitability). Neither Bd nor other threats were found to be drivers of population decline at the continental level: "Our analysis uses data from across the United States to empirically test the relationship between change in the number of amphibian populations and hypothesized threats. We did not find support for a consistent relationship between rates of amphibian declines and distribution of stressors at the continental level."

An important finding is "that local amphibian populations are being lost from metapopulations at an average rate of 3.79% per year."

Friday, 25 March 2016

Are amphibians evolving tolerance to Bd?

A new paper by Anna Savage and Kelly Zamudio suggests that amphibian populations may be evolving tolerance to Bd. This result is based on the analysis of MHC loci.

The authors write "Our findings indicate that selective pressure for Bd survival drives rapid immunogenetic adaptation in some natural populations, despite differences in environment and demography. Our field-based analysis of immunogenetic variation confirms that natural amphibian populations have the evolutionary potential to adapt to chytridiomycosis."

The paper published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society can be found here:

Thursday, 24 March 2016

The salamander-killing fungus is more widely distributed than previously known

A new paper in Emerging Infectious Diseases shows that the salamander-killing chytrid fungus Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans occurs in the Netherlands (the index site where the first outbreak was observed), Belgium and also in Germany. In the wild, it infects Salamandra salamandra, Ichthyosaura alpestris and Lissotriton vulgaris.

Read the full paper here:

For more information on the fungus:

Monday, 15 February 2016

James Cook University shutting down amphibian disease research

We need your help.

**James Cook University shutting down amphibian disease research**

James Cook University plans to shut down the amphibian disease group (Dr. Lee Skerratt and Lee Berger) in the One Health Research Group, based on the argument that this topic does not fit the One Health Concept (since amphibian diseases are rarely transmitted to humans and livestock). Such argument fails to recognize the actual One Health Concept, in which biodiversity loss is intrinsically linked to human health and wellbeing.

It is our feeling that any such decision, in which a leading, very successful research group is just made redundant, may affect all groups involved in the conservation of biodiversity. We feel it is very important that as scientists, we promote research into (in this case infectious) causes of biodiversity loss, also when diseases are concerned without immediate impact on human / livestock health. We therefore decided to convey our concern to James Cook University using the letter attached.

If you would like to support the continuation of one of the most prominent amphibian disease research groups, then please send the letter (below the ### ) to

University Council, JCU
Sandra Harding, Vice Chancellor, JCU,

(Sorry for cross posting)


Dear Vice Chancellor Professor Sandra Harding
and the University Council of James Cook University,

We heard with regret of the planned changes at the One Health Research Group of JCU, which would result in the loss of one of the most prominent research groups at a global scale involved in biodiversity loss due to infectious diseases.

Dr Lee Berger and Dr Lee Skerratt are among the world leaders in a high impact research field: amphibian declines. Whereas several institutions are now finally valuing the contribution of biodiversity to human health and wellbeing, we regret to see an opposite movement at JCU, narrowing the One Health principle to diseases affecting humans and livestock. One key component of One Health is indeed biodiversity, the loss of which indirectly affects both human and livestock health. This should not be narrowed down to diseases that are transmissible from wildlife. Several research groups have been advocating this comprehensive concept of One Health and this has been a very fruitful approach, leading to increased involvement in national and international policy and decision making.

Given the internationally supported concept of One Health and the key position represented by the research group of Drs Berger and Skerratt, we feel that abandoning this line of research would result in reputational damage for JCU through the loss of a leading role in a research field of high societal relevance.

We sincerely hope that the JCU vision will value the concept of One Health, in which currently it has a leading role, and will support the viability of the research group concerned with amphibian diseases as well as other infections of zoonotic or biodiversity concern.

Yours sincerely,

Monday, 11 January 2016