Erica Bree Rosenblum on a bizarre ancient fungus turned deadly frog killer

Scientists are studying a bizarre and ancient fungus, which has recently become a deadly killer of frogs.

The fungus is on nearly every continent and affects over 400 known frog species. EarthSky spoke to Erica Bree Rosenblum, a biologist at the University of Idaho, about why this fungus is so deadly to frogs.

Scientists don’t exactly know, said Rosenblum The fungus gets into the water, swims around until it lands on a frog. Then it burrows into the skin of the frog and spreads. Eventually skin and organ functions fail, and frogs can die within a couple weeks.

The fungus is mysterious, and scientists are tracking it down by searching for why it’s such an effective killer. Rosenblum takes a genetic perspective. She sequences the genes of both the frog and the fungus and she looks for key differences to identify what she calls ‘candidate genes,’ and these genes might be a clue.

There’s no recovery for the frogs yet. That’s why scientists are so anxious to understand the fungus. If frog populations continue their rapid decline, it means a big loss of biodiversity and major impacts on ecosystems everywhere.

Our thanks to:
Erica Bree Rosenblum
University of Idaho
Moscow, ID

November 5, 2008

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