Certain Panamanian Golden Frogs Survive Exposure To Chytrid

March 19, 2015

Scientists at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute who set out to determine if an anti-fungal probiotic treatment could stop the chytridiomycosis fungus from attacking Panamanian golden frogs (Atelopus zeteki) found that 25 percent of the frogs in the study had a pre-existing skin microbe that kept the fungus from killing them while other frogs in the study did not and died. The anti-fungal probiotic treatment, however was unsuccessful in keeping the chytrid fungus from killing the frogs as it wasn’t able to take a hold on the frog’s skin.

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Scientists found that 25 percent of the golden frog's in their study had a built-in microbe that was resistant to the chytrid fungus.

“Anything that can help us predict resistance to this disease is very useful because the ultimate goal of this research is to establish healthy populations of golden frogs in their native habitat,” said Matthew Becker, a fellow at SCBI. Becker was the lead scientist on the experiment.  “I think identifying alternative probiotic treatment methods that optimize dosages and exposure times will be key for moving forward with the use of probiotics to mitigate chytridiomycosis.”

The chytrid fungus has devastated amphibian populations around the world and scientists still don’t have an idea how certain frogs, like some of the Panamanian golden frogs in this study can retain a skin microbe that prevents the fungus from attacking them while other frogs in the study did not. The scientists who conducted this study said the results advanced their knowledge of the disease. The Panamanian golden frog is actually a true toad, and not a frog. It is considered extinct in the wild. There are an estimated 1,000 to 2,000 Panamanian golden frogs in zoos and aquariums in the United States as part of breeding programs in an effort to preserve the species. It is hoped that one day they can be reintroduced back into Panama. 

John B. Virata keeps a western hognose snake, a ball python, two corn snakes, a kingsnake, and two leopard geckos. His first snake, a California kingsnake, was purchased at the Pet Place in Westminster, CA for $5. His first pet reptile was a green anole that arrived in a small box via mail order. Follow him on Twitter @johnvirata 


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