Tuesday, 8 January 2008

Happy New Year in the Year of the Frog

Welcome to 2008, the year the Amphibian Ark has tasked to be the Year of the Frog (Click here to visit site ) in an effort to raise awareness of the AArk’s lead role in coordinating public awareness and global captive breeding programmes for species at greatest risk of extinction. Of course, many of those species are at risk due to chytridiomycosis, not least of which is the Mt Chicken frog, Leptodactylus fallax, a species nearly eradicated from Dominica by the emergence of Bd. The frog is found also on Montserrat, where the species range was severely impacted by volcanic activity in the 90s, but where Bd appears not to have yet reached (see Garcia et al. 2007 Oryx 41(3):398-401). On Dominica, chytridiomycosis was first reported in L. fallax in December of 2002 and in less than 1.5 years Dominican Mt. Chicken frogs declined by an estimated 70% (Malhotra et al. 2007 Applied Herpetology 4:177-194), with current estimates at 8,000 individuals: the IUCN currently lists the species as Critically Endangered. The Zoological Society of London has established a small captive population for the purposes of captive breeding (Click here to read article) and the herpetology staff of ZSL London Zoo is currently battling Bd infection in this population with Itraconazole. Results so far are extremely encouraging: previously diseased males appear healthy, test negative for infection and are starting to exhibit secondary sexual characteristics.

Animal Conservation published in the last issue of 2007 a featured paper by Doug Woodhams and coauthors (Woodhams et al 2007 Animal Conservation 10:409-417), along with commentaries and a reply by the authors of the original paper. The featured paper describes the latest in a series of papers examining the relationship between amphibian species, the production of antimicrobial peptides and susceptibility to chytridiomycosis. Another recent publication by Seimon and co (Seimon et al 2007 Global Change Biology 13:288-299) provides evidence that dispersing amphibians bring Bd along with them. Furthermore, the dispersers are taking advantage of recently available habitat made available through climate change.

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