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Nature & Science

The Effects Of Pregnancy Tests On Frogs

Image Source: Ken Griffiths / Shutterstock

Have you ever wondered about the sudden decline in frog populations during the 1980s? While some may attribute it to natural fluctuations over time, the World Congress of Herpetology expressed significant concern by 1990 due to the noticeable disappearance of frogs. Researchers struggled to locate these frogs and understand the causes behind their vanishing act.

Understanding the Frog Disappearance

The crisis of frog disappearances from marshes, rivers, and forests began in the early 1970s. A pathogenic fungus known as Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, or the chytrid fungus, was identified as the culprit. This fungus gradually suffocates frogs and disrupts the natural function of their skin, usually resulting in death within a week of infection and leading to the potential extinction of entire frog populations.

Another tragic incident occurred in the late 1980s with the sudden loss of gastric-brooding frogs and the Costa Rican golden toad. These pregnant toads vanished from Australia entirely.

It’s estimated that over 200 frog species fell victim to the chytrid fungus, with some managing to survive despite being decimated by the infection. The fungus has spread to infect more than 700 frog species globally.

The Discovery

In her Ph.D. thesis, Berger co-discovered the fungus and detailed the infection in her 1998 journal PNAD. It’s believed that the widespread use of pregnancy tests in the 1950s and 60s led to the release of the fungus into the environment. While African amphibians developed some resistance to the fungus, by 1998, the infection had spread to every continent except Antarctica.

The amphibians’ permeable skin makes them susceptible to external environmental factors like fertilizers, pesticides, pharmaceuticals, and UV radiation in wastewater, increasing their vulnerability to infections and viruses that could endanger their lives.

The Chytrid Fungus

The chytrid fungus represents one of the most devastating diseases to impact wildlife, with its persistence posing ongoing challenges. Clulow’s research revealed that a slight increase in water salinity by 0.5 parts per trillion reduced infection rates and improved amphibian survival rates.

While this salinity method may not be universally effective, it proves beneficial for ponds and artificial habitats, enabling biologists to safeguard frog populations with minimal disruption to the broader ecosystem.

Image Source: Ken Griffiths / Shutterstock

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