Globe-hopping amphibians may have created the lethal chytrid fungus responsible for decreasing frog populations around the world.
A new study published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences shows that the global amphibian trade not only continues to spread the fungus, it may have been instrumental in creating the fatal strain. Researchers sequenced the genomes of samples of the Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd) fungus collected from Australia, Africa, Europe, and North and South America. Most of the samples belonged to a single, extremely virulent strain, present on all five continents. Analysis of this strain’s genome revealed that it had formed when two strains mated at some point within the past hundred years. The authors of the paper say that the simplest explanation is also the most likely: global trading of amphibians in the last century enabled the mating and created a monster.