Deadly Virus may Be the Cause of Extinction of Frogs

by VR Sreeraman on  January 2, 2008 at 7:31 PM Research News
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Deadly Virus may Be the Cause of Extinction of Frogs
Unless a solution is found quickly, as many as half of all the species of frogs may become extinct due to the spread of a deadly virus.

According to a report in The Telegraph, the parasitic fungus amphibian chytrid has already proven deadly for hundreds of amphibian species of frogs, toads, newts, salamanders and caecilians across the globe.

Surprisingly, it has been found by researchers that the effects of global warming might have led to the further spread of the virus, which can kill 80 per cent of native amphibians within months once it has taken hold.

"Widespread extinction of amphibians would be catastrophic," said Jeffrey P. Bonner, chairman of Amphibian Ark and president and CEO of the St. Louis Zoo.

Biologists have said that the conservation of frogs is important as they are significant as an 'indicator species' - serving as a warning when there is something wrong with the environment.

"In addition to their intrinsic value, they offer many benefits and are a critical part of a healthy world," said Bonner. "They play an important role in the food web as both predator and prey, eating insects which benefits agriculture and minimizes disease spread. Their skin also has substances that protect them from some microbes and viruses, offering promising medical cures for a variety of human diseases," he added.

According to the report, apart from the dangers posed by the virus, amphibians are severely affected by habitat loss, climate change, pollution and pesticides, introduced species, and over-collection for food and pets.

"It is of utmost importance to raise awareness among national governments, world media, school educators, corporations, philanthropists, and the general public about the fragility of amphibians and the enormous responsibility that each of us has in trying to rescue the amphibians in danger," said Jörg Junhold, Ph.D., chair of the Amphibian Ark Year of the Frog campaign and director of Zoo Leipzig.

On the positive side, the report says an ambitious rescue plan has already been launched to help save the world's amphibians from extinction.

This plan would involve the setting up of an amphibian version of Noah's Ark, where the most vulnerable species will be moved into protected areas in zoos, aquariums and other institutions around the world so their future survival can be guaranteed, it said.

Another step in this direction is 2008 being designated "Year of the Frog" by conservationists to raise awareness of the plight of amphibians and to raise the funds needed for a concerted worldwide effort to save them, it added.

"Without an immediate and sustained conservation effort to support captive management, hundreds of species of these wonderful creatures could become extinct in our own lifetime," said Sir David Attenborough, who is patron of the campaign.

Source: ANI

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