Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Help Support EcoWatch

'Most Destructive Pathogen Ever' Has Created Zombie-Like Apocalypse for World's Amphibians

Animals
A fungal disease which humans have helped to spread among amphibians has led to the decline of 500 species over the past 50 years. Centophobia / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

By Julia Conley

A terrifying new study details the havoc being wrought by what scientists call "the most destructive pathogen ever" recorded on Earth, finding that with help from unwitting humans a "silent killer" has caused major declines of frogs, salamanders and hundreds of other amphibian species.


Chytridiomycosis or chytrid fungus, has killed off 90 species over the past 50 years while leading to huge losses of 501 kinds of frogs, toads, salamanders and other amphibians, according to researchers from a number of worldwide universities. Nearly 125 of those species have declined by at least 90 percent due to the rapid spread of the pathogen.

The report, published in Science on Thursday, offers disturbing new information about a disease which scientists first detected in 1998 — but whose power they didn't grasp until now.

"We've known that chytrid's really bad, but we didn't know how bad it was, and it's much worse than the previous early estimates," Ben Scheele, an ecologist at Australian National University and lead author of the study, told National Geographic.

Chytrid fungus kills amphibians by eating away the skin of its hosts, leaving amphibians unable to breathe and quickly going into cardiac arrest. The pathogen is easily spread and rapidly destructive to the 695 species it infects.

"If it were a human pathogen, it'd be in a zombie film," biologist Dan Greenberg told National Geographic.

Chytrid fungus does not infect humans — but human activity has helped to spread the disease. The pathogen is thought to have originated in Asia, and both legal and illegal pet trades have helped to spread it to Central, South and North America; Europe; Australia; and Africa. The disease is widespread in the U.S.

Across the world, chytrid fungus "has damaged global biodiversity more than any other disease ever recorded," wrote Michael Greshko in National Geographic.

The study's 42 authors are urging world governments to curb trading of wild amphibians, protect amphibian habitats and support captive-breeding programs to stem the effects of the disease.

"It's pretty sobering that we haven't been able to do those sorts of obvious things," biologist Wendy Palen told National Geographic. "Maybe this is a real wake-up call."

Reposted with permission from our media associate Common Dreams.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

A man pushes his mother in a wheelchair down Ocean Drive in South Beach, Miami on May 19, 2020, amid the novel coronavirus pandemic. CHANDAN KHANNA / AFP via Getty Images

The U.S. reported more than 55,000 new coronavirus cases on Thursday, in a sign that the outbreak is not letting up as the Fourth of July weekend kicks off.

Read More Show Less
To better understand how people influence the overall health of dolphins, Oklahoma State University's Unmanned Systems Research Institute is developing a drone to collect samples from the spray that comes from their blowholes. Ken Y. / CC by 2.0

By Jason Bruck

Human actions have taken a steep toll on whales and dolphins. Some studies estimate that small whale abundance, which includes dolphins, has fallen 87% since 1980 and thousands of whales die from rope entanglement annually. But humans also cause less obvious harm. Researchers have found changes in the stress levels, reproductive health and respiratory health of these animals, but this valuable data is extremely hard to collect.

Read More Show Less

Sunscreen pollution is accelerating the demise of coral reefs globally by causing permanent DNA damage to coral. gonzalo martinez / iStock / Getty Images Plus

On July 29, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed into law a controversial bill prohibiting local governments from banning certain types of sunscreens.

Read More Show Less
Oat milk is popping up at coffee shops and grocery stores alike, quickly becoming one of the trendiest plant-based milks. jacqueline / CC by 2.0

By Kelli McGrane

Oat milk is popping up at coffee shops and grocery stores alike, quickly becoming one of the trendiest plant-based milks.

Read More Show Less

"Emissions from pyrotechnic displays are composed of numerous organic compounds as well as metals," a new study reports. Nodar Chernishev / EyeEm / Getty Images

Fireworks have taken a lot of heat recently. In South Dakota, fire experts have said President Trump's plan to hold a fireworks show is dangerous and public health experts have criticized the lack of plans to enforce mask wearing or social distancing. Now, a new study shows that shooting off fireworks at home may expose you and your family to dangerous levels of lead, copper and other toxins.

Read More Show Less
Billions worth of valuable metals such as gold, silver and copper were dumped or burned last year as electronic waste produced globally jumped to a record 53.6 million tons. Curtis Palmer / CC by 2.0

By Ashutosh Pandey

Billions worth of valuable metals such as gold, silver and copper were dumped or burned last year as electronic waste produced globally jumped to a record 53.6 million tons (Mt), or 7.3 kilogram per person, a UN report showed on Thursday.

Read More Show Less

Trending

A women walks with COVID-19 care kits distributed by Boston's Office of Neighborhood Services in Boston, Massachusetts on May 28, 2020. The pandemic has led to a rise in single-use plastic items, but reusable bags and cloth masks can be two ways to reduce waste. JOSEPH PREZIOSO / AFP via Getty Images

This month is Plastic Free July, the 31 days every year when millions of people pledge to give up single-use plastics.

Read More Show Less