Fungus Suspect In Frog Deaths

named. Chytrid fungi have not previously been found to parasitise vertebrates before. Other types of chytrid fungi can live freely in the water or soil, and there are some that are parasites of plants and insects," says Dr Berger.

Dr Peter Daszak, Kingston University Surrey in the UK and Dr Louise Goggin, CSIRO Marine Research, Hobart identified the fungus using electron microscopy and molecular biology. Berger and Hyatt then demonstrated that it could infect and kill frogs. Strangely, tadpoles do not succumb to this disease. This fits with field reports where tadpoles have been seen in areas after the adults have disappeared. About 2- 3 weeks after metamorphosing, young frogs have been found dying.

Their US colleagues have found the same fungus in frogs in many zoos and have retrospectively shown it was present in one zoo as early as 1988.

Investigations are continuing - to confirm the hypothesis, and work out how this disease has emerged to become significant. It is possible that it has been introduced to these areas, or that environmental changes have made the frogs susceptible. Further studies are also needed to determine how closely related are the fungi from different areas and whether they are all the same species.

The success of this investigation has been due to the collaboration of scientists with different areas of expertise, and from different countries. The team includes:

- Dr Lee Berger, CSIRO
- Dr Alex Hyatt, CSIRO
- Dr Rick Speare, James Cook University, Townsville
- Dr Peter Dasak, Kingston University Surrey UK
- Dr Andrew Cunningham, Institute of Zoology, London UK
- Dr David Green, NIH Maryland USA
- Dr Karen Lips, University of South Illinois USA
- Keith McDonald, Queensland Department of Environment
- Harry Hines, Queensland Department of Environment

A scientific account of the investigation will be publi

Contact: Ian McTaggart
CSIRO Australia

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