Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Amphibian chytrid fungus reaches Madagascar Over 290 endemic species are at risk

26.02.2015

The chytrid fungus, which is fatal to amphibians, has been detected in Madagascar for the first time. This means that the chytridiomycosis pandemic has now reached a biodiversity hotspot. 

Researchers from the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ) and TU Braunschweig, together with international colleagues, are therefore proposing an emergency plan. This includes monitoring the spread of the pathogenic fungus, building amphibian breeding stations and developing probiotic treatments, say the scientists, writing in Scientific Reports, the acclaimed open-access journal from the publishers of Nature.


Boophis quasiboehmei from the Ranomafana National Park in Southeast Madagascar.

Miguel Vences / TU Braunschweig


Chytrid fungus was proved on Platypelis pollicaris from Ranomafana.

Miguel Vences / TU Braunschweig

The entire amphibian class is currently afflicted by a global pandemic that is accelerating extinction at an alarming rate. Although habitat loss caused by human activity still constitutes the main threat to amphibian populations, habitat protection no longer provides any guarantee of amphibian survival. Infectious diseases are now threatening even seemingly secluded habitats.

The most devastating of the known amphibian diseases is chytridiomycosis, which is caused by a deadly chytrid fungus (Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, or Bd). The fungus attacks the skin, which is particularly important in amphibians because they breathe through it. A large number of species have already been lost in this way – particularly in tropical Central America, where two-thirds of the colourful harlequin frog species have already been decimated across their entire area of distribution.

Bd has now been identified in over 500 amphibian species, 200 of which have seen a significant decline in numbers. The pathogen is therefore classified worldwide as one of the greatest threats to biodiversity.

Until now, however, a few islands like Madagascar were thought not to have been affected. The last series of tests from 2005 to 2010 found no trace of the pathogenic fungus there. However, an analysis of the latest series of tests shows that the chytrid fungus also poses a threat to amphibians in Madagascar.

“This is sad news for amphibian-lovers around the world,” says Dr Dirk Schmeller of the UFZ, who was involved in analysing the samples. “Firstly, it means that an island that is home to a particularly high number of amphibian species is now at risk. Several hundred species live only on this island. And, secondly, if the pathogen has managed to reach such a secluded island, it can and will occur everywhere.”

For the study that has just been published, the research team analysed samples from over 4000 amphibians from 50 locations in Madagascar taken since 2005. Samples from four species of Madagascan frog (Mantidactylus sp.) taken in 2010, and from one Mascarene frog (Ptychadena mascareniensis) taken in 2011 from the remote Makay massif tested positive for the fungus. In samples from 2013 and 2014 the pathogen was found in five different regions.

Prof. Miguel Vences from TU Braunschweig says, “The chytrid fungus was found in all four families of the indigenous Madagascan frogs, which means it has the potential to infect diverse species. This is a shock!” The study also shows that the disease affects amphibians at medium to high altitudes, which ties in with observations from other parts of the world, where the effects of the amphibian epidemic have been felt primarily in the mountains.

The fact that the fungus has been identified in a very remote part of the island has puzzled the researchers. There is some hope that it may prove to be a previously undiscovered, native strain of the pathogen, which may have existed in the region for some time and have gone undetected because of a lack of samples. In this case, Madagascar’s amphibians may have developed resistance to it. However, further research is needed to confirm this hypothesis before the all-clear can be given. It is also possible that the fungus was brought to the island in crustaceans or the Asian common toad (Duttaphrynus melanostictus), carried in by migratory birds or humans.

“Luckily, there have not yet been any dramatic declines in amphibian populations in Madagascar,” Dirk Schmeller reports. “However, the pathogen appears to be more widespread in some places than others. Madagascar may have several strains of the pathogen, maybe even the global, hypervirulent strain. This shows how important it is to be able to isolate the pathogen and analyse it genetically, which is something we haven’t yet succeeded in doing.”

At the same time, the researchers recommend continuing with the monitoring programme across the entire country to observe the spread of the disease. The scientists also suggest setting up extra breeding stations for key species, in addition to the two centres already being built, to act as arks, so that enough amphibians could be bred to recolonise the habitats in a crisis.

“We are also hopeful that we may be able to suppress the growth of the Bd pathogen with the help of skin bacteria,” says Miguel Vences. “It might then be possible to use these bacteria as a kind of probiotic skin ointment in the future.” A high diversity of microbial communities in the water could also reduce the potential for infection, according to earlier investigations conducted by UFZ researchers and published in Current Biology.

The outbreak of amphibian chytridiomycosis in Madagascar puts an additional seven per cent of the world’s amphibian species at risk, according to figures from the Amphibian Survival Alliance (ASA). “The decline in Madagascan amphibians is not just a concern for herpetologists and frog researchers,” says Dr Franco Andreone from the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), who is one of the study authors. “It would be a great loss for the entire world.” In the coming months, the scientists therefore plan to work with the government to draw up an emergency plan to prevent this scenario.
Tilo Arnhold

Publication:
Molly C. Bletz, Gonçalo M. Rosa, Franco Andreone , Elodie A. Courtois, Dirk S. Schmeller, Nirhy H. C. Rabibisoa, Falitiana C. E. Rabemananjara, Liliane Raharivololoniaina, Miguel Vences, Ché Weldon, Devin Edmonds, Christopher J. Raxworthy, Reid N. Harris, Matthew C. Fisher, Angelica Crottini (2015): Widespread presence of the pathogenic fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis in wild amphibian communities in Madagascar. Sci. Rep. 5, 8633; DOI:10.1038/srep08633
http://nature.com/articles/doi:10.1038/srep08633
http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/srep08633

The studies were funded by various zoos and nature conservation foundations and the National Science Foundation (NSF), the VolkswagensStiftung, the German Research Foundation (DFG), the Era-Net Network "BiodivERsA" and the EU project RACE (Risk Assessment of Chytridiomycosis to European Amphibian Diversity).

Further information:
Dr. Dirk S. Schmeller
Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ)
Phone: +49-(0)341-235-3282
http://www.ufz.de/index.php?en=12786
and
Prof. Dr. Miguel Vences
Technical University of Braunschweig, Zoological Institute
phone: +49-(0)531 391-3237
http://www.zoologie.tu-bs.de/index.php/en/evolutionsbiologie/agvences
and
Dr. Franco Andreone
Museo Regionale di Scienze Naturali (Torino, Italy) & IUCN SSC
http://www.amphibians.org/redlist/membership/franco-andreone/
as well
Prof. Reid N. Harris
James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia (USA) & Amphibian Survival Alliance (ASA)
http://csmbio.csm.jmu.edu/biology/harrisrn/site/Home.html
or via
Tilo Arnhold, Susanne Hufe (UFZ press office)
Phone: +49-(0)341-235-1635, -1630
http://www.ufz.de/index.php?en=640
and
Candace Hanse-Hendrikx
Amphibian Survival Alliance
http://www.amphibians.org/about/team/

Further Links:
Amphibian Survival Alliance (ASA)
http://www.amphibians.org/

Global Bd-Mapping Project:
http://www.bd-maps.net/

RACE (Risk Assessment of Chytridiomycosis to European Amphibian Biodiversity):
https://www.bd-maps.eu/
https://www.bd-maps.eu/docs/race_factsheet.pdf

Wildlife diseases threaten Europe’s biodiversity: http://iucn.org/about/union/secretariat/offices/europe/?13819/Wildlife-diseases-...

Micropredators dictate occurrence of deadly amphibian disease (Press release, 20th January 2014):
http://www.ufz.de/index.php?en=32370

In the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ), scientists conduct research into the causes and consequences of far-reaching environmental changes. Their areas of study cover water resources, biodiversity, the consequences of climate change and possible adaptation strategies, environmental technologies and biotechnologies, bio-energy, the effects of chemicals in the environment and the way they influence health, modelling and social-scientific issues. Its guiding principle: Our research contributes to the sustainable use of natural resources and helps to provide long-term protection for these vital assets in the face of global change. The UFZ employs more than 1,100 staff at its sites in Leipzig, Halle and Magdeburg. It is funded by the federal government, Saxony and Saxony-Anhalt. http://www.ufz.de/
The Helmholtz Association contributes to solving major and urgent issues in society, science and industry through scientific excellence in six research areas: Energy, earth and environment, health, key technologies, structure of matter as well as aviation, aerospace and transportation. The Helmholtz Association is the largest scientific organisation in Germany, with 35,000 employees in 18 research centres and an annual budget of around €3.8 billion. Its work is carried out in the tradition of the great natural scientist Hermann von Helmholtz (1821-1894). http://www.helmholtz.de/

Weitere Informationen:

http://www.ufz.de/index.php?en=33612

Tilo Arnhold | Helmholtz-Zentrum für Umweltforschung - UFZ

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht How gut bacteria can make us ill
18.01.2017 | Helmholtz-Zentrum für Infektionsforschung

nachricht Nanoparticle Exposure Can Awaken Dormant Viruses in the Lungs
16.01.2017 | Helmholtz Zentrum München - Deutsches Forschungszentrum für Gesundheit und Umwelt

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: How gut bacteria can make us ill

HZI researchers decipher infection mechanisms of Yersinia and immune responses of the host

Yersiniae cause severe intestinal infections. Studies using Yersinia pseudotuberculosis as a model organism aim to elucidate the infection mechanisms of these...

Im Focus: Interfacial Superconductivity: Magnetic and superconducting order revealed simultaneously

Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.

While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...

Im Focus: Studying fundamental particles in materials

Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales

Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...

Im Focus: Designing Architecture with Solar Building Envelopes

Among the general public, solar thermal energy is currently associated with dark blue, rectangular collectors on building roofs. Technologies are needed for aesthetically high quality architecture which offer the architect more room for manoeuvre when it comes to low- and plus-energy buildings. With the “ArKol” project, researchers at Fraunhofer ISE together with partners are currently developing two façade collectors for solar thermal energy generation, which permit a high degree of design flexibility: a strip collector for opaque façade sections and a solar thermal blind for transparent sections. The current state of the two developments will be presented at the BAU 2017 trade fair.

As part of the “ArKol – development of architecturally highly integrated façade collectors with heat pipes” project, Fraunhofer ISE together with its partners...

Im Focus: How to inflate a hardened concrete shell with a weight of 80 t

At TU Wien, an alternative for resource intensive formwork for the construction of concrete domes was developed. It is now used in a test dome for the Austrian Federal Railways Infrastructure (ÖBB Infrastruktur).

Concrete shells are efficient structures, but not very resource efficient. The formwork for the construction of concrete domes alone requires a high amount of...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

12V, 48V, high-voltage – trends in E/E automotive architecture

10.01.2017 | Event News

2nd Conference on Non-Textual Information on 10 and 11 May 2017 in Hannover

09.01.2017 | Event News

Nothing will happen without batteries making it happen!

05.01.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

How gut bacteria can make us ill

18.01.2017 | Life Sciences

On track to heal leukaemia

18.01.2017 | Health and Medicine

Water - as the underlying driver of the Earth’s carbon cycle

17.01.2017 | Earth Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>