Frog disease killing unknown species

July 20, 2010 at 7:14 PM
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COLLEGE PARK, Md., July 20 (UPI) -- A fungal disease is wiping out frog species in Central America, researchers say, including some not previously known to science.

The disease -- chytridiomycosis -- is advancing trough tropical highlands at about 20 miles a year, causing amphibian die-offs at a rapid rate, reported Tuesday.

At one site in Panama, 25 species disappeared between 1998 and 2004, and as of 2008 no examples of the species had reappeared there, researchers say.

Using a genetic technique called DNA barcoding, scientists found that five unnamed species unknown to researchers were among those disappearing from the region.

"It's sadly ironic that we are discovering new species nearly as fast as we are losing them," said Andrew Crawford of the University of the Andes in Colombia.

"Our DNA barcode data reveal new species even at this relatively well-studied site, yet the field sampling shows that many of these species new to science are already gone here."

Losing entire species leaves researchers in the dark about the future of affected habitats, one scientist said.

"It's like the extinction of the dinosaurs," Karen Lips, associate professor of biology at the University of Maryland, said. "The areas where the disease has passed through are like graveyards; there's a void to be filled and we don't know what will happen as a result."

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