Quirks & Quarks

African frogs facing fatal fungal infection

A fungal infection that has devastated amphibians in Central America has now been found in Central Africa

A diverse population of amphibians in Cameroon has succumbed to a spreading pathogen

One of the frog species whose numbers are crashing: Cardioglossa manengouba from Mt. Manengouba in Cameroon. (Mark-Oliver Rödel of the Museum für Naturkunde in Berlin)
More than a decade ago, scientists began to notice significant decline in fragile populations of amphibians in Central and South America. The culprit turned out to be an infectious chytrid fungus that settled on the frogs' skin and disrupted their metabolism. Outbreaks of the chytrid fungus in other parts of the world followed.

Many researchers suspected the source of the infection was frogs exported from Africa for use as lab animals. These frogs had partial immunity to the fungus, and so were carrying the infection around the world. But new work by Dr. David Blackburn, Curator of Amphibians and Reptiles at the Florida Museum of Natural History, and his colleagues, has found the same fungus seems to be responsible for amphibian declines in Cameroon, where he's worked for the last decade.

And if these frogs have no immunity to the disease, then the simple story of an invasive pathogen from Africa may be wrong, and what's more, other African amphibians might be vulnerable to the chytrid fungus.

Related Links

- Paper in PLoS One
- University of Florida release
- UPI story