13 Aug 2012:
Shifting Climate Makes Frogs
More Vulnerable to Disease, Study Says
Increasingly unpredictable swings in the weather are making frogs more vulnerable to the deadly chytrid fungus
, according to a new study. In a series of tests, scientists at Oakland University in Michigan exposed
Cuban treefrogs living under a variety of conditions in laboratory incubators to chytridiomycosis, a highly infectious fungal disease that has decimated amphibian species globally
. The scientists found that frogs that were exposed to unpredictable temperature changes were more susceptible to the disease. For example, frogs that were shifted to incubators at a temperature of 15 degrees C (59 degrees F) after spending four weeks at a temperature of 25 C (77 F) were far more likely to suffer infections
than those frogs already accustomed to living at 15 C. According to Thomas Rafell, an Oakland University researcher and lead author of the study, the fungus was likely able to adapt faster to the temperature shift because it is smaller and has a shorter generation time than its host. Field data have shown that harlequin frog populations decline more quickly when monthly temperatures fall suddenly and that these cooling shifts have become more common as a result of climate change, suggesting that this phenomenon is already affecting frogs in the wild. The study was published in the journal Nature Climate Change
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