Paper calls into question the chytridiomycosis hypothesis for amphibian declines

A new paper published in PLoS ONE by Matthew Heard, Katherine F. Smith, and Kelsey Ripp have called into question the hypothesis that chytridiomycosis is causing amphibian declines. The threat by this disease seems to have been exaggerated since there are few species for which the fungus is a threat.

When the new version of the Red List for amphibians was published a few years ago, under the name the Global Amphibian Assessment, I asked the same questions. Why assign chytridiomycosis as a risk for species for which there is no evidence? Even worse, it was listed as a threat to species for which there was evidence they were immune to the disease!

A figure in the paper is very revealing, out of the species that have listed chytridiomycosis as a threat, very few have any kind of evidence.

It seems that chytridiomycosis became the default cause for any kind of decline found in an amphibian population. This is a problem because conservation programs will waste time, money, and resources in controlling a disease without need. In addition, the uncertainty will not help to protect species that do need some help.

Hopefully this kind of publication will halt the alarm and put things into perspective. Scientists need to start proving that the disease is a real threat, they have had more than enough time.

Heard M, Smith KF, Ripp K, 2011 Examining the Evidence for Chytridiomycosis in Threatened Amphibian Species. PLoS ONE 6(8): e23150. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0023150

Updated on 23nov11 to fix some grammar.

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