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Deadly amphibian disease found in Panama

June 13, 2011 at 7:38 PM   |   Comments

WASHINGTON, June 13 (UPI) -- A fast-spreading amphibian disease reached the last disease-free region of Central America, National Zoo scientists in Washington said Monday.

The discovery of chytridiomycosis in Panama's Darien region is troublesome for the Panama Amphibian Rescue and Conservation Project, a consortium of nine U.S. and Panamanian institution trying to rescue 20 species of frogs in danger of extinction, the zoo said Monday in a release.

Chytridiomycosis has been tied to seep population drops and the extinction of amphibian species worldwide.

"We would like to save all of the species in the Darien, but there isn't time to do that now," said Brian Gratwicke, biologist at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute and coordinator for the Panama project. "Our project is one of a few to take an active stance against the probable extinction of these species."

In 2007, Doug Woodhams, a research associate at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, tested 49 frogs at a site bordering the Darien region and none tested positive for the disease. In January 2010, however, Woodhams found 2 percent of the 93 frogs he tested were infected.

"Finding chytridiomycosis on frogs at a site bordering the Darien happened much sooner than anyone predicted," Woodhams said. "The unrelenting and extremely fast-paced spread of this fungus is alarming."

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