We are witnessing a mass extinction of Amphibia. An exotic fungus called Chytrid is delivering the blow.
Chytrid is now reported on all continents where frogs live - in 43 countries. It survives at elevations from sea level to 20,000 feet. Locally it may be spread by anything from a frog’s leg to a bird’s feather and it has afflicted over 200 species. Gone from the wild are the Costa Rican golden toad, the Panamanian golden frog, the Wyoming toad, the Australian gastric-brooding frog. In a 2007 paper, Australian researcher Lee Berger and colleagues put it this way: “The impact of Chytrid on frogs is the most spectacular loss of vertebrate biodiversity due to disease in recorded history.”
In ancient Egypt Frogs symbolised life and fertility. For children through the ages they have been a slippery introduction to the natural world. Frogs represent an order that has weathered over 300 million years to evolve into more than 6,000 singular species.
Beautiful, diverse - and imperilled. Extracts from National Geographic, April 2009
Us humans have assumed our superiority in the age-old battle of species on earth. Our golden time at the top of the evolutionary pyramid is a beautifully fleeting moment. The impact of Chytrid on Frogs is a lesson for us. It is a reminder that we are part of a planet teeming with competitive yet interconnected life forms. Life is a feedback system.