Researchers of an international study discovered that a deadly fungal disease in amphibians is causing dramatic declines in the creatures’ populations. It has so far caused a significant decline in over 500 species, including 90 that have already been wiped out.

Deadly Fungal Disease In Amphibians

In the last 50 years, over 500 amphibian species have seen dramatic population declines, and 90 species have already gone completely extinct. According to the researchers of a new study, this mass amphibian extinction is being caused by a deadly fungal disease, chytridiomycosis, which eats away at the creatures’ skin.

The disease is present in over 60 countries, but is said to be the worst in locations such as Australia, South America, and Central America. As such, it has since wiped out many species over the course of 50 years, and has been causing sporadic deaths in many more. For instance, in Australia, the disease has so far caused a decline in 40 frog species, and caused the extinction of seven others.

According to researchers, virulent diseases such as chytridiomycosis contribute to the planet’s ongoing sixth mass extinction.

Pathogen Spread From Wildlife Trade

Researchers say that it is quite likely that the deadly fungus originated from Asia, as many of the region’s local amphibians are resilient to it. However, the disease is fast spreading globally because of how much humans are moving wildlife around to new areas without realizing that in doing so, they are also introducing pathogens to new environments.

What’s concerning is that it is not easy to remove such a pathogen from the environment. This is partly because the species that are not affected by the pathogen continue to carry it in their bodies, and thereby act rather like a reservoir for the fungus.

“We've got to do everything possible to stop future pandemics, by having better control over wildlife trade around the world,” said Dr. Ben Scheele of Australian National University, coauthor of the study, noting that many species are at risk of going extinct because of chytridiomycosis in the next two decades.

The study is published in Science.

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