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Research seminar: DYNAMICS OF AN EMERGING DISEASE DRIVE LARGE-SCALE AMPHIBIAN POPULATION EXTINCTIONS
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DYNAMICS OF AN EMERGING DISEASE DRIVE LARGE-SCALE AMPHIBIAN POPULATION EXTINCTIONS
Chytridiomycosis, a disease caused by fungal pathogens, is causing epidemics in amphibians around the world. Amphibians are considered one of the most successful lineages of terrestrial vertebrates, and have a long history of survival (>360 million years); yet, today, they are the most imperiled of all land vertebrates, with 30-40% of the roughly 8000 species being threatened with extinction. Disease appears to be a major driver of this pattern. With over 500 amphibian species affected, and potentially 200 driven to extinction, chytridiomycosis is the most significant disease in recorded history. I will present data from my lab that documents the catastrophic impact of chytridiomycosis epizootics in contemporary populations and will discuss efforts to use probiotics to prevent host population collapse. We also developed a technique, that I am employing in the Museo Nacional de Ciencias Naturales, that detects fungal infections in historical amphibian specimens. This key advance allows us to go back in time to reconstruct the fungal invasion of amphibian hosts over the last century. The outcome of my research is shaping recovery efforts for threatened species, providing data for disease models, and along with all many other studies of this disease, changing our understanding of how diseases affect dynamics and persistence of host populations.