Male Darwin's frogs raise young in their mouths, protecting them from predators until they have matured for weeks, when the fathers regurgitate them into the world. But nothing can protect them from a deadly fungus, which has helped push one of the two species of these frogs to probable extinction, and driven a decline in the second variety, new research shows.
The fungus, known as Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, or chytrid fungus, has spread throughout the world and devastated many amphibian populations. But this is one of the first instances in which the fungus has been directly implicated in the disappearance of such a widely known species, researchers said.
Researchers looked at museum specimens of both species and found that the fungus started showing up in these and other frogs in the 1970s, about when populations of both began to decline, according to a study published today (Nov. 20) in the journal PLOS ONE. [40 Freaky Frog Photos]
One of the species, the northern Darwin's frog (Rhinoderma rufum), hasn't been seen since 1980 and is likely extinct. The fungus is "probably the main reason" for the frog's disappearance, said Marcus Rowcliffe, a researcher at the Zoological Society of London who wasn't involved in the present study.