Disease and the decline of amphibians

Northern Leopard Frog - canadianbiodiversity.mcgill.ca

Northern Leopard Frog – canadianbiodiversity.mcgill.ca

A new study from the United States Geological Survey (USGS) predicts that many species of frogs, toads and salamanders in the U.S. will face a 50% drop in their population within the next decade if the current trend continues.  Although no comparable study has been done in Canada, this decline is evident in amphibian populations around the world.  Vancouver Aquarium director Dennis Thoney has stated that “Frogs… are facing probably the largest extinction since the dinosaurs right now. Of the 6,000 species, a third to more are threatened or endangered now.”  It is expected that climate change, habitat loss and disease are some major factors likely contributing to the problem.

Deadly diseases such as chytrid fungus, and ranavirus are contributing to the decline of amphibian populations.  Ranaviruses have been found to cause mass mortality events in amphibians throughout the globe and ranavirus infection is now an OIE reportable disease.  This is an emerging disease that is capable of causing illness in amphibians, reptiles and fish.  Since the discovery that ranaviruses are capable of such widespread die-offs, researchers have been working hard to try and learn more about the disease and what makes it so deadly.  Dr. Maria Forzan, at the Atlantic Canadian Cooperative Wildlife Health Centre is currently studying how ranavirus causes disease in native Canadian frogs.  There are a number of groups in Canada studying amphibian populations and attempting to determine what diseases and environmental factors may be causing their decline.

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