Tuesday, 10 Feb, 2009 Environment

Salamanders Disappearing Due to Killer Fungus


The number of salamanders is critically falling, as mysterious creatures continue vanishing in tropical forests across Central America. According to researchers, two most common species of salamander that lived in cloud forests of southern Mexico and Guatemala are extinct while other species continue disappearing.

It is possible that chyrid, a dangerous fungus that can spread in waves, is the reason why frogs, salamander's cousins, have been wiped out worldwide.

In regard to the salamanders in Central America, the author of the study David Wake, a biologist at the University of California, Berkeley, stated that there is no evidence that the fast-killing fungus is responsible for the extinction. He also considers that climate change had little or not impact on the decline of salamanders. It is worth mentioning that during 1970 the scientist spent several years studying lungless salamanders inhabiting San Marcos region, located in western Guatemala. In the period between 2005 and 2007 Wake returned to the region together with his team with the goal of surveying salamanders and comparing the obtained results to the historical data.

The study results were recently published in the scientific journal, entitled Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Wake found the result rather surprising, reports National geographic.

"Cold facts written on a piece of paper don't convey the impact on my psyche when I went there. Species that could be seen 10 to 15 times an hour in the 1970s were "completely gone", the scientist said.

He mentioned that the lungless salamanders that represent one of the most varied and well-studied salamander communities found in the American tropics lived in forests and mid-elevations as high a 2,800 meters in a region where global warming is most intense. Among 62 salamanders tested by the scientist, 7 showed clear signs of chytrid fungus, which is obviously not enough to state that the fungus is the one to cause the declining of salamanders.

Karen Lips, a biologist at the University of Maryland, College Park, carried out her own researches on amphibian decline. She says that chytrid is the possible killer of salamanders. Lips outlined that there is no information on the fact that climate change is the main factor to lead to the extinction of the species. She said that an unnoticed "carpet of salamanders" creates the most biomass in a number of forests. In case the amphibians, which just like salamanders consume large amounts of insect, will disappear "things go out of whack," the scientists said.

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