A killer fungus called chytrid has reached Madagascar. The fungus is fatal for amphibians and threatens to wipe out about 500 frog species on the island.
Madagascar is located in the Indian Ocean and is home to a wide number of frog species. Scientists believe that 99 percent of the frog species found on the island are not found elsewhere in the entire world. However, the amphibians are at risk with the arrival of the chytrid fungus.
Scientists previously thought that Madagascar was free from chytrid. However, a study has found the presence of chytrid in Madagascar frogs that were shipped to the U.S.
Researchers were not sure if the amphibians were infected en route to the U.S. or were infected in the island nation.
Molly Bletz from the Braunschweig University of Technology in Germany, lead researcher of a new study, suggests that chytrid is present in several frog species found in Madagascar.
Bletz's study involved examining skin swabs as well as tissue samples of about 4,155 frogs from different locations in Madagascar from 2005 to 2014. The study found that the lethal fungus started to appear in the island's frogs from 2010.
"This is sad news for amphibian-lovers around the world," said Dr. Dirk Schmeller from the Department of Conservation Biology Helmholtz-Centre for Environmental Research at UFZ, who was involved in the analysis of the frog samples. "Firstly, it means that an island that is home to a particularly high number of amphibian species is now at risk. Several hundred species live only on this island. And, secondly, if the pathogen has managed to reach such a secluded island, it can and will occur everywhere."
Bletz said that they were unable to find any sick frogs in the extensive sample, which may also mean that the chytrid fungus in Madagascar is not very lethal to amphibians.
Even though frogs are not dying of the chytrid fungus, scientists still want to know from where the dangerous fungus is arriving in Madagascar. Once the source of the fungus introduction in Madagascar is established, researchers will try to develop preventive measures to stop the inflow of the fungus.
The fungus is currently not very harmful but future fungus strain may be "supervirulent," which may affect the frog species in Madagascar.