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DOES DEADLY FROG FUNGUS LURK IN INSECTS?

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An ancient skin fungus that has been killing frogs, salamanders, and other amphibians may be hiding in invertebrates such as insects.

The skin fungus, Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd), also known as amphibian chytrid, got attention in 1993 when dead and dying frogs began turning up in Queensland, Australia. Since then it has driven hundreds of species worldwide to extinction.

Kevin Smith, an adjunct professor of biology at Washington University in St. Louis, studied Bd in South Africa during postdoctoral research. South Africa is home to the African clawed frog, a suspected vector for the fungus.

Smith collected tadpoles and checked their mouth parts (often a fungal hot spot) under the microscope. He found the fungus in about a third of the ponds whose tadpoles he checked. The obvious questions were: Why only a third? Why didn’t it occur in all amphibian populations in a region where it is found?

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