November 12, 2013 at 12:19 am #992MikeKeymaster
Lethal amphibian fungus ‘in UK’
The bullfrogs are not native to the UK (Image: Stephen Price)
A fungus that is deadly to many species of amphibians has been found in wild animals in the UK for the first time.
Chytrid fungus is a major contributor to the decline of amphibian populations around the world and may have already made one species extinct.
Its presence was detected in a colony of American bullfrogs that set up home in two lakes in South-East England.
Scientists are now trying to establish whether the fungal disease has spread to native amphibian species.
The disease, Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, has been found in captive animals in this country before, but never in the wild.
The chytrid fungus was detected in the bullfrogs by Dr Andrew Cunningham of the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) and colleagues and is reported in the Veterinary Record.
“If it does get into British species, it’s going to be very difficult to get rid of,” Dr Cunningham told the BBC News website.
The American bullfrog (Rana catesbeiana) is native to the central and eastern US and the southern portions of Ontario and Quebec. The UK colony was probably derived from animals kept as pets that either escaped or were released.
English Nature has been in the process of eradicating the animals, which numbered more than 11,000, and had sent specimens to ZSL for testing.
There was a significant trade in the animals during the 1980s and 1990s, when they were sought after as exotic pets.
But the European Commission banned their import in 1997 because of fears that the frogs, which are not choosy about what they eat, would destroy native wildlife.
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