Fungus...what! What does a fungus have to do with amphibians?!? Well, if you're asking that question, then you've never heard of the Chytrid Fungus...and it's a serious one! The chytrid fungus, also known as "Chytridiomycota", is the main cause of an infectious disease known as "Chytridiomycosis". This disease is a contributing factor to the decline in amphibian populations that has been affecting our planet since the 1980's. It is estimated that this disease has affected 30% of all amphibian species - that's roughly 1 in every 3 species! Sometimes it can cause random deaths in a population of amphibians, while for other species it can wipe out 100% of those infected. So not only is this linked with the huge decline in amphibian population, but the disease Chytridiomycosis is even linked with the extinction of some amphibian species! When an amphibian is infected, the first noticeable signs include the animal losing appetite and not eating, as well as overall low energy and slow movements. However the most common symptom is a thickening of the skin, and this is REALLY bad for amphibians! Amphibians have very thin and delicate skin, because they breathe through their skin and also absorb nutrients and retain water. When an amphibian is exposed to the chytrid fungus, it's not long before the skin thickening begins, and shortly after is usually death. It's been very difficult for scientists to narrow down the range of this disease, as the disease is ALWAYS found with the fungus - however sometimes the fungus is found, with no diseases. There has been much research into how this disease develops, finding amphibian species that might have an immunity, and its interaction with other chemicals. While treatment and a cure aren't very successful so far, learning more about the problem is very important, as every step we can take to grow amphibian populations is a huge one!
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