You may have heard that many amphibians are threatened by a fungal disease. The fungus Batrachochitrium dendrobatis is linked to dramatic declines in populations of amphibians. It appears that the fungus has been around for a long time, but only started to threaten amphibians in the last 15 years. No one knows why. Some speculate that the fungus has mutated into a more virulent one, while others think that climate changes favours the fungus. But it is certain that many populations of amphibians have declined and some species are now extinct.
The western side of the Azuero peninsula is home to a few dozen species of amphibians. The most common and obvious ones are the Cane toad, (Bufo marinus), the Tungara frog (Physalaemus pustulopsus)) and the milk frog (Phrynohyas venulosa). But there are also a few populations of the Green-and-black Poison dart frog (Dendrobates auratus). The poison-dart frog occurs mostly in the Cerro hoya National Park, but there are remnant populations in other areas. Apparently the poison-dart frogs are most sensitive to the fungal disease, while other species hardly suffer (well, I have to admit that it is difficult to imagine the Cane Toad being sensitive to anything at all, except maybe a sledge hammer).
Last week we had two Dutch guests, Alex and Patrick, who are very keen on frogs, especially poison-dart frogs, which also suffer most from the fungal disease. Alex and Patrick brought some test kits to check whether the fungus is also present on the western Azuero peninsula, especially in the poison-dart frogs. We first went to the Cerro Hoya but found no poison-dart frogs there. They do spread out during the rainy season, but we were (are) slightly worried that we did not find a single poison dart frog. The next day we went to another place, near Quebro. Here we did find the frogs and Alex and Patrick took samples from six frogs.
Taking a sample means that they take a swab from the skin of the frog with a small ball of cotton. The frog is not hurt in any way and is released immediately after the sample has been taken. The swab is sent to the University of London for analysis. We hope to get results in about two months time