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Home / Health / A glimmer of hope: Panama frogs bounce back after a terrible illness

A glimmer of hope: Panama frogs bounce back after a terrible illness



Posted: Mar 29, 2018 8:00 pm Updated: March 29, 2018 2:27 pm

WASHINGTON (AP) – After years of silence, the rhythmic Dee Dee depths of frogs and toads are returning in parts Panama

A deadly fungal disease devastated amphibians in Central America over a decade ago and calmed some mountain streams. But new research shows that evolution could have saved the day – and the frogs.

At El Cope, Panama, at least four species disappeared, including the red-striped Rio San Juan robber-frog. Four other species lost at least 88 percent of their population to a fungus that had severely affected Panama between 2004 and 2007. The fungus was also blamed for eradicating amphibian populations in California's Sierra Nevada and parts of Australia.

Quakes have been heard in once-peaceful Panama brooks in recent years. The animals are by no means regained because they are still infected with the fungus, but they live and grow in numbers, according to a new study in the journal Science on Thursday.

"It's so easy to lose hope when you've gone the same stretch of power year after year, hoping to see a hint of the amazing diversity you've seen there once," said Co -Author Corinne Richards-Zawacki, a University of Pittsburgh biologist, in an e-mail. "You can imagine how good it feels to be able to report good news from the field."

Recovery is not everywhere and at best modest, warned senior author Jamie Voyles, an ecologist at the University of Nevada, Reno. One of the frogs making the most notable comeback is the hard-to-catch rocket frog, so named because it's so fast,

Voyles and Richards-Zawacki wanted to find out why the amphibians survived. At first, they thought the disease was weakened. But after testing old and new disease samples on frogs, they found that the disease was as dangerous as ever.

To their surprise, the frogs and toads fought better back. The fungal disease attacks their skin secretions and recently the frogs showed a two- to five-fold improvement in the ability of the amphibians to limit the growth of the fungus. The disease is still there, but it does less damage, Voyles said.

While this research is important, the results are not too surprising because previous studies have shown that as bad as outbreaks of disease, they play a tiny role in species extinction, said Andrew Blaustein at Oregon State University, who is not part the study was.

Evolution allows species to resist completely succumbing to the commonest diseases. "Well, yes, there is hope," Blaustein said in an e-mail.

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Follow Seth Borenstein on Twitter at @borenbears. His work can be found here.

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The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Department of Science Education of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. All content is the sole responsibility of the AP.

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