Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Chytrid and Frogs in Australia’s High Country

By Ben Scheele

Science is helping conservation managers deal with the curse of chytrid fungus. While the threat has devastated many frog species, there is reason to be hopeful.

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Frogs are in trouble. A devastating disease called chytridio­mycosis has been wiping them out, often from pristine habitats. The disease is caused by amphibian chytrid fungus, which disrupts the skin function of infected frogs, leading to cardiac arrest.

Since the identification of chytrid fungus by Australian researchers in 1998, the pathogen has been documented in more than 500 amphibian species around the world. Fortunately the pathogen is not universally deadly, with some species demonstrating high resistance. However, many species are highly susceptible and the pathogen has been identified as the primary driver of decline for more than 200 species of frog.

It’s believed the pathogen may have originated from Brazil. The earliest record of chytrid in Australia is from a preserved frog specimen collected in 1978 in south-east Queensland. From its potential introduction in Brisbane, chytrid appears to have spread rapidly both north and south.

Over the past 3 years we have focused on the long-term impacts of chytrid on frogs in the Australian high country – a region that is home to several endemic species. In the mid-1980s mysterious frog declines were reported from the region. We can now be confident that these declines were caused by chytrid. In conjunction with David Hunter from the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage, we have examined how...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.