Pathogens are taking a catastrophic toll on amphibians with hundreds of species of frogs, toads, and salamanders suffering devastating losses. However, scientists aren't letting these animals go without a fight.
Pathogens Kill Frogs, Salamanders In Great Numbers
Deadly fungal disease chytridiomycosis, widely known as simply chytrid, is responsible for the greatest known loss of biodiversity attributable to single disease.
Since the disease first emerged in the 1980s, it has caused the deterioration of at least 501 species of frogs, toads, and salamanders, according to a study published in the journal Science in March 2019. This is equivalent to 6.5 percent of all known amphibian species in the planet and 90 species are already presumed extinct in the wild, BBC reports.
Even worse, chytrid is not the only pathogen that's wreaking havoc on amphibian populations. Ranavirus, which has at least four different varieties, is also devastating amphibians.
Not only are amphibians dying out, but their dwindling numbers also mean that they cannot play their part in keeping the ecosystem healthy, such as eating disease-carrying mosquitoes, carrying food for other animals, and helping prevent algal blooms.
If left unresolved, these pathogens could completely lay waste to animal populations worldwide. Is there anything humans can do to save these animals?
Experts Meet To Brainstorm For Potential Solutions
According to the Zoological Society of London, zoologists will be gathering in London for a two-day symposium to come up with an emergency plan to save the amphibians in danger of the deadly pathogens. The international event will be held on April 24 to 25.
The upcoming meeting will hopefully yield more possible solutions to save the different species vulnerable to chytrid and ranavirus.
"We will be holding a full-day workshop in which we get the very best people in the field - conservationists, zoologists and experts on co-infections together and get them to hammer out the best strategy for dealing with this," Professor Trent Garner says in The Guardian. "Unless we get one, this is going to get a lot worse."
The outlook isn't entirely bleak, though. In 2015, antifungal drug treatments have shown promise in eliminating chytrid in the wild. A few years later in 2018, scientists discovered that a number of frog species are developing resistance to the fatal disease.
Scientists attending the symposium are hoping they can provide solutions that will make an even greater impact on amphibian populations.
In the meantime, officials have asked the public to refrain from moving frogs, tadpoles, or their eggs from one pond to another to avoid facilitating the spread of the infections.