Friday, January 13, 2012

Frogs and hybrid fungi

A few days ago I posited that humans are affecting ecosystems globally on a scale that rivals extinction events in the distant past.

Subsequent to that I unsealed an old copy of New Scientist that I'd been saving for a rainy day.  The 12 November 2011 issue mentioned  a disease that is "decimating frogs around the planet."

The cause is a fungus lethal to frogs called Batrachochytrium dentdrobatidis.  Sixteen of the 20 samples collected globally were a genetically identical strain (called BdGPL), ie they were of the same origin.  And they are "extremely virulent."

That strain was clearly a hybrid, formed in the past 100 years, most likely due to the "20th-century pet and food trade", which enabled the strains to meet.

Madagascar and south-east Asia are the regions most at risk right now, being "hotspots of amphibian diversity" and free of this fungus right now.

Globalisation is an inevitable process in the development of human society.  Such collateral damage need not be inevitable, but it takes political will which in turn, at the very least, would entail using one's vote wisely.

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