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Genetic analysis finds greater threat in frog-killing fungus

n the area.

The researchers set out to determine which of two competing hypotheses for the origin of chytridiomycosis was more plausible. If the fungus was recently introduced to an area, the researchers would expect to find a single genotype that had spread by clonal reproduction. If, however, the fungus is endemic to a region, they would expect to find diverse genotypes resulting from a long history of association that provides enough time for isolates to diverge through mutation and genetic recombination.

If the fungus is endemic to a region, the animals in the area would normally be resistant to its destructive effects because they would have co-evolved together. However, biologists theorize that changes to the environment - from global warming to pollution from agricultural chemicals - could make native frog populations susceptible to a pathogen with which they've previously co-existed.

According to the study, neither epidemic spread nor endemism alone explains the decline of these frogs.

"We found sites dominated by a single fungal genotype, which suggests a recent spread of the pathogen through clonal reproduction," said lead author Jess Morgan, who was a UC Berkeley post-doctoral researcher working with Taylor at the time the study was conducted. "But this study also provides the first evidence of genetic recombination in B. dendrobatidis, which results in multiple, related genotypes and signals that sexual reproduction is occurring."

The findings could help explain the global spread of this pathogen, which has also been found in South America, Australia, Europe and Africa, said the researchers. While human-assisted spread is possible, the fungus has infected amphibians in pristine areas too remote for human activity.

"Up until now, people thought the movement of this pathogen was mainly via infected frogs, so such measures as restrictions on the pet trade were put in place," said Morgan, who
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Contact: Sarah Yang
scyang@berkeley.edu
510-643-7741
University of California - Berkeley
6-Aug-2007


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