May 17, 2013

Fatal fungus found in third major amphibian group, caecilians and other wildlife disease news


Climate change brings disease threat for polar bears

With its habitats shrinking and food supplies dwindling, the fate of the polar bear looks grim in the face of climate change . Now comes news that the iconic Arctic mammal may face another potentially devastating threat: it may be particularly vulnerable to new pathogens moving northwards as a result of warming.

Diana Weber, who works at both the New College of Florida, Sarasota, and the American Museum of Natural History in New York, led a team that sequenced DNA from 98 polar bears in Canada. They looked specifically for genes coding the major histocompatibility complex (MHC) – a molecule found on the surface of cells that acts as a crucial component of the immune systems of most vertebrates.

New Scientist
15 May 2013
S Bhattacharya

Fatal fungus found in third major amphibian group, caecilians

Scientists took skin swabs from more than 200
wild-caught caecilians to test for the potentially
deadly chytrid fungus
It is known as the amphibian chytrid fungus and can cause a deadly disease that is decimating some of the world's frogs, toads, newts and salamanders. However, the fungus had not been detected in the other lesser-known major group of amphibians, the caecilians, until now.

An international team led by scientists at the Natural History Museum and Zoological Society of London (ZSL) have found the first cases of chytrid fungus infections in caecilians. They report their findings today in the journal EcoHealth.

More than 200 caecilians caught from the wild had DNA tests carried out on swabs of their skin to check for the amphibian chytrid fungus, Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis. The study included 29 caecilian species from 5 countries in Africa and South America, which is the largest genetic survey of this fungus in caecilians to date.

National History Museum
15 May 2013

Cited Journal Article

Other Chytridiomycosis News

Can a Mosquito Kill a Killer Whale? Yes, Says New Case Report

It sounds almost impossible. How could a tiny mosquito possibly kill one of the top predators in the ocean? According to a new peer-reviewed case report published in the Journal of Marine Mammals and Their Ecology, it’s because they lived in captivity.

“Orca (Orcinus Orca) Captivity and Vulnerability to Mosquito-transmitted Viruses,” co-authored by John Jett and Jeffrey Ventre, queries the role of captivity and husbandry procedures in lowering the immune system of captive orcas. The duo, who are former SeaWorld trainers, directly correlated the death of two SeaWorld killer whales to their environment and disease-carrying mosquitoes.

“Although unreported in wild orca populations,” Jett and Ventre noted, “mosquito-transmitted diseases have killed at least two captive orcas in U.S. theme parks.”

Decoded Science
14 May 2013

What If There Is No Happy Ending? Science Communication as a Path to Change

... Over the next 12 years, I watched as entire communities of amphibians – hundreds of animals and over 100 species of frogs and salamanders – succumbed to chytridiomycosis, the fungal disease caused by that fungus, Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd for short). It was stunningly fast. Entire valleys would be wiped out in a few months. It was devastating. We worked furiously to document and understand what was happening, driven to tell the world about what we were seeing. We cranked out definitive papers. More importantly, though, I felt personally responsible doing something.

For me, that ‘something’ was going to take skills you just don’t learn in the lab or the field, so I applied for communication and leadership training through the Leopold Leadership Program. I wanted to learn how to better communicate lessons learned from the amphibian extinction I had observed in the hopes of alerting others and preventing new extinctions. I put my freshly honed communication skills to work, describing what we had seen in the field, and the impacts of those declines on populations, communities, and ecosystems. I gave lots of talks to many kinds of groups – colleagues, hobbyists, zookeepers. I always hoped that somebody in the audience would have the right bit of information to understand where this fungus came from, how it worked, and how we might control it.

I am struggling to find a new message, one that moves past the death and destruction I have witnessed and beyond the feelings of helplessness and frustration, but one that is still honest and useful....

Scientific American
15 May 2013
K Lips

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