Contributing Monkie Sarah Backhouse
Published on May 21, 2008
Those of you hoping to find Prince Charming by kissing a toad had better start considering other dating options, like match.com. The chances of this fairytale ending coming true are getting slimmer by the second. Scientists warn that frogs and their cousins, the toads and newts, could disappear entirely within 20 years. That’s right, extinct. But this time it’s not because of global warming, rather a deadly virus.
London Zoo’s amphibian expert Iain Stephen said: “Over the next 20 or 30 years we could be talking about the biggest mass extinction since the dinosaurs” (via The Sun). Some of the cold-hearted amongst you could argue: big deal. The death of dinosaurs didn’t adversely affect humankind. Quite the contrary — it’s allowed us to thrive (while inspiring us to create animated masterpieces like the Flintstones). With frogs, however, it’s different. Frogs play an important role in the food chain: “They typically live on insects, worms and snails (and) in turn, they are eaten by birds, fish and mammals such as badgers and foxes”. Losing them would upset the fragile balance of nature.
The disease, known as Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, is a chytrid fungus which was discovered only ten years go. The effects have been devastating with up to 170 frog species already lost. “Chytrid fungus has affected frogs worldwide and, at the moment, a third of the world’s amphibians are threatened with extinction,” says Andrew Gray, amphibian curator at Manchester University. “Now it has been found in some of Britain’s indigenous species and that could have a catastrophic effect, even within the next two, three or four years. Frogs are one of the few animals that don’t drink water. They absorb everything through their skin, so they are very sensitive. Any change in the ecosystem affects them very quickly.”
The loss will be felt especially in the tropics, where frogs protect us by eating disease carrying insects.
TV naturalist Sir David Attenborough warns: “There is the real possibility that much of an entire category of animals may become extinct unless we prepare to act quickly.” But as spraying the forest with fungicide is the only known treatment of this virus, the prognosis looks grim – both for the frogs and those in search of Prince Charming.
(via The Sun)