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Genetic analysis finds greater threat in frog-killing fungus

is now a research scientist at the Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries in Queensland, Australia. "If, in fact, this fungus produces resistant spores, people could be unwittingly transferring this pathogen around the world from dirt on our shoes or car tires. But spores could also hitchhike on the feathers of birds for quick transport across mountain ranges."

Moreover, if resistant spores remain in lakes where previous populations of frogs have succumbed to chytridiomycosis, attempts to repopulate the lakes with healthy frogs will likely fail.

Study co-authors Roland Knapp, ecologist at UC Santa Barbara's Sierra Nevada Aquatic Research Laboratory, and Vance Vredenburg, a post-doctoral scholar in integrative biology at UC Berkeley, have led a number of such efforts to reintroduce mountain yellow-legged frogs in remote lakes in the Sequoia and Kings Canyon national parks and the John Muir Wilderness. The sites were areas where previous frog populations had been wiped out by chytridiomycosis.

Out of 10 reintroduction attempts over the past four years, seven have failed, the authors said.

"Within two years, the healthy frogs we introduced would become infected with the fungus and die," said Knapp. "It's a stunning thing to see. One year, there is no obvious evidence of the disease, the next year, we'd come back to see hundreds of dead or dying frogs, and then the following year, they'd all be gone."

Although genetic testing should be able to detect the spores, scientists do not know where to look for them. In addition, blindly testing environmental samples has thus far failed to yield evidence of the spores.

Infected frogs can be treated with fungicides to remove the pathogen, but researchers say it is not a practical long-term solution since they would remain susceptible to re-infection if returned to the same lake.

To conduct the study, researchers collected two species of mountain yellow-
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Contact: Sarah Yang
scyang@berkeley.edu
510-643-7741
University of California - Berkeley
6-Aug-2007


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