The most known household amphibian may very soon disappear from earth. Sounds unbelievable, but it is likely to occur soon if we don’t take some immediate action. This amphibian extinction crisis is supposed to be the worst species conservation challenge in the history of humanity. The extinction is not about only one or two species, but about a complete class of animals, thousands of species! It can be compared to extinction of dinosaurs only.
The main threat of this crisis is not any of the general threats like shrinking of habitat, global warming, pollution, killing of the species, etc. , but a parasitic chytrid fungus –Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis. It is believed that the fungus started spreading around the world many decades ago, but unfortunately it was discovered only in ’90s. In last 30 years or so, the fungus has swept away more than 150 species of amphibians, mostly frogs. Another 2000 species are already on the verse of extinction due to the same infection. It is said to be the worst infectious disease ever recorded among vertebrates in terms of the number of species impacted, and it’s propensity to drive them to extinction. The fungus infects cells of the outer skin layers of the amphibians that contain large amounts of a protein called “keratin”. The fungus feeds on this Kertain. Researchers aren’t yet sure of exactly how the fungus kills the frogs.
The most shocking thing in this process is that Human race will have to bear another blame on their shoulders for the mass extinction. Its only humans who spread the fungus across all continents. Scientists believe that this fungus came from African clawed frogs that are actually immune to this fungus infection, one of the few amphibians resistant to the Chytric fungus. These frogs have spread far beyond their native habitat, carrying the fungus with them, due to global trade. Scientists around the world have used these frogs for research and, from the 1930s to the 50s, to conduct pregnancy tests.
There are many efforts amongst the researchers to save the amphibians from mass extinction. The most powerful among them is Amphibian Ark project powered by the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA), theIUCN/SSC Conservation Breeding Specialist Group (CBSG), and the IUCN/SSC Amphibian Specialist Group (ASG).