Toads living on mountains at higher risk of dying from fungal infection

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Washington, January 25 (ANI): A new research has suggested that midwife toads that live in the mountains are highly likely to die from a serious fungal infection, called chytridiomycosis, whereas their infected relatives in the lowlands are not.

The research was carried out by scientists from the Imperial College London, the Zoological Society of London and the BiodivERsA project RACE.

During the five-year study, the researchers found that no midwife toads at low altitudes died as a result of fungal infection, whereas up to 100 per cent of those at high altitudes died.

The fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd), also known as chytrid fungus, grows in the skin of amphibians, causing a disease called chytridiomycosis.

The fungus has caused many species of frog and toad to become extinct and human activity has spread the fungus across the world, affecting an estimated 50 per cent of amphibian species.

Although infection usually is invisible to the naked eye, it can cause skin discolouration and ulceration and lead to convulsions.

Previous research shows that infection kills amphibians by causing heart failure.

The fungus is particularly prevalent in Australia and the Americas, where its spread is well studied.

However, little was known about Bd in Europe before the new study.

In the new study, the researchers found no dead toads at low altitudes.

However, in mountain regions up to 100 per cent of infected toads died of the fungus infection, and the disease is known to have caused the extinction of some of the populations in the region.

According to the authors of the study, this means it is vital for conservationists to ensure that the fungus does not spread to new mountain ranges, as it could be devastating to the toad populations living there.

In the new research, the scientists studied the spread of Bd in midwife toads living on the Iberian Peninsula, which includes Spain and Portugal.

Midwife toads are common in Europe and are a vital part of the ecosystem, providing predators with food and preying on insect pests.

The new study shows that the disease is spread patchily across much of the area but in some locations, such as the Pyrenees, the disease is found in clusters, where it is threatening local toad populations.

Although the researchers found no link between the presence of infection and climate, they did show that the disease is much more dangerous for toads living at high altitudes.

Reasons might include that the toads are less able to fight off infection in the mountains, where temperatures are colder, or that the fungus is better adapted to cold environments. (ANI)

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