It looks like you're using an Ad Blocker.
Please white-list or disable AboveTopSecret.com in your ad-blocking tool.
Some features of ATS will be disabled while you continue to use an ad-blocker.
Frogs matter - they play a vital role in the food chain, and some have been found to produce chemicals that cure human diseases. But a fungus dubbed "the amphibian smallpox" is making many species extinct. So scientists are mounting a rescue operation.
It's the middle of the night in the rainforests of central Panama...
...Frogs around the world are in decline. In recent years, scientists have documented frog population decreases of up to 80% in some areas.
Habitat loss, climate change and pollution, are all playing a role in the disappearances.
Another culprit is "chytrid" - a virulent fungal disease, thought to have originated in Africa, that's spreading around the globe...
...When they do find frogs, they pack them into plastic bags and "medevac" them out of the forest like injured soldiers...
...The pods hold the very last of some frog species.
"We call them arks," Estrada says, "amphibian arks, because we're basically keeping these frogs alive for future generations."
It's a desperate effort, as the scientists race to keep ahead of the onward march of the disease...
..."There's a species in Australia that produces a chemical called caerin, which blocks HIV transmission to T-cells," he says. "The skin of another species has produced compounds that have been shown to kill 'superbugs' in hospitals. The untapped resources of our amphibian biodiversity are virtually unknown," he adds.
But there's another important reason for the frog rescue.
Gratwicke quotes a legendary American ecologist called Aldo Leopold: "'To keep every cog and wheel is the first rule of intelligent tinkering.'" In this case, he says, amphibians are more than just the cogs and wheels. They are the entire middle of the food chain. "They eat the bugs and are then eaten by snakes and birds and other things. So we want to make sure we look after them."
The species now being sheltered in Panama cannot return to the wild to continue their vital ecological role without some kind of solution to the fungus problem, as once the fungus arrives it stays.
...At the Summit Zoo in Gamboa (Panama), researcher Angie Estrada has had a breakthrough in her efforts to save at least one endangered species... She says the fungus is expected to arrive there in a year or two, and that 90% of the species there will die as a result...
We postulate that contact between previously genetically isolated allopatric populations of Bd may have allowed recombination to occur, resulting in the generation, spread, and invasion of the hypervirulent BdGPL leading to contemporary disease-driven losses in amphibian biodiversity.