“These frogs are absolutely lethal”
(Washington Post) Professor Matthew Fisher went deep into the gloomy rain forest of French Guiana to catch poison dart frogs on behalf of science. It was slippery, soggy, vaguely reptilian work. Fisher, whose work uniform was a pair of shorts, discovered that the best way to capture a frog was by slithering.
“You’ve got to pretend you’re a snake,” explains the epidemiologist from Imperial College London. He would silently creep to within an arm’s length of his target and then lunge forward purposefully: “You’ve just got to clap both of your hands around it and hold on tight.”
The frogs were critical elements of a 10-year global investigation by 38 research institutions of a pathogenic fungus, Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd), that is decimating amphibian populations around the world.
The fungus, called a chytrid, causes an often-fatal skin disease, chytridiomycosis. Fisher and his colleagues cultured samples of the fungus, ran genetic tests and sought to understand when and where the pathogen emerged and how it spread around the planet.
“When you globalize trade, you globalize unexpected consequences …”
Their results, published Thursday in the journal Science, indicate that the Bd fungus pandemic did not begin 23,000 years ago, as one earlier hypothesis suggested, but rather sometime in the 1900s. Global trade and the marketing of exotic pets likely propelled it.
The genetic signals point to a common ancestor in East Asia, possibly on the Korean Peninsula.
Fisher said the surge in activity in East Asia during World War II and the Korean War, and the increased movement of people and cargo, could have played a role in distributing fungus-infected frogs and toads to other parts of the world.
“When you globalize trade, you globalize unexpected secondary consequences of trade,” Fisher says. Read the full story at The Washington Post