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Genetic analysis finds greater threat in frog-killing fungus

legged frogs from six sites in the Sierra Nevada. Rana sierrae is found in northern Sierra Nevada and represented in the study by frogs at the sites at Little Indian Valley, Summit Meadow and Mono Pass, while Rana muscosa is found in southern Sierra Nevada, where study sites Laurel Lake, Hitchcock Lakes and Woods Lake are located.

The sites at Mono Pass and Summit Meadow are both easily accessible to humans by Tioga Pass Road, a popular thoroughfare in Yosemite National Park. Accessing the other four sites, however, was decidedly more difficult, necessitating hikes of two to three days or, on several occasions, the use of helicopters.

The researchers cultured the fungi samples obtained from the 100 frogs collected and had the pathogen's genome sequenced by the U.S. Department of Energy's Joint Genome Institute in Walnut Creek, Calif. They compared genetic markers for the Sierra Nevada B. dendrobatidis samples with fungi collected from other regions around the world.

"The genotypes of our fungi in the Sierra are not that different from genotypes found around the world," said Taylor. "That means there must be someplace else on earth where this fungus is endemic. One would guess that the frogs living where the ancestral population of this fungus is located would not be affected that badly. We could then try to determine the mechanisms those frogs use to resist the pathogen."

The study also found that the sites near Tioga Pass Road contained two similar populations of fungi. Because the lakes are 40 kilometers apart, the evidence is strong that movement of the fungi between the two locations was somehow assisted by humans, said the researchers.

"If we confirm that spores are a factor, then there may be precautions we can take to contain their spread," said Morgan. "This could involve cleaning shoes before moving from one infected site to another. Some fungi produce spores during certain times of the year. If that is the
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Contact: Sarah Yang
scyang@berkeley.edu
510-643-7741
University of California - Berkeley
6-Aug-2007


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