Something not a lot of people know about me is that I really love amphibians. Especially axolotls. For those that don’t know, an axolotl is basically a fully aquatic salamander. Axolotls are neotenic, which means they never grow up! They spend their entire life looking like the larval stage of a true salamander. They can only be found in the wild in a few lakes in Mexico, but they have flourished as both research animals and pets. My love for axolotls led me to enroll in an exotic animal medicine course this semester, and in the section covering amphibians, I am learning about a disease that’s devastating amphibians worldwide: Chytrid.
Chytrid, or chytridiomycosis, is a fungal disease caused by Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis. This fungus grows on keratinized surfaces (skin) and causes severe skin disease and ulcers. It is usually fatal. Almost all species of amphibians seem to be at risk for Chytrid, and the fungus can be found worldwide. What’s even scarier is that Chytrid has already contributed to at least 90 amphibian extinctions. There are probably more that we don’t know about. It is also contributing to at least 500 species that are experiencing declines in populations. You can read more about these extinction events here.
Chytrid can be transmitted via direct contact with another amphibian, from shared water, or when carried into an environment on the shoe of a person. This makes it very easy to spread. It’s important that if you are spending time at different ponds, lakes, or rivers to give your shoes and gear a thorough cleaning before going to a different location. It’s also really important to not catch animals in the wild and take them to a new habitat, or to introduce them to your pet amphibians. Just as important, if you do get a pet amphibian, whether a frog, salamander, or axolotl, don’t release them into the wild if you decide they aren’t the pet for you. They may have the potential to become an invasive species, or they might carry deadly diseases like Chytrid.
Chytrid mycosis is a very concerning disease affecting amphibians worldwide. Fortunately, there is lots of research being done on the disease so that we can hopefully find a way to stop it.
If you’d like to read more about Chytrid, check this out!