Longcore’s research cited in The Atlantic article on frogs, killer fungus

Research by Joyce Longcore, a mycologist and associate research professor at the University of Maine, was mentioned in The Atlantic article, “Why are some frogs surviving a global epidemic?” In the early 2000s, Longcore was one of the only experts on a division of fungi called Chytridiomycota, or chytrids, and she identified a new genus and species of chytrid called Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, or Bd, that turned out to be a primary cause of massive amphibian die-offs. In 2004, ecologists documenting declines in Central America asked Longcore to collect Bd samples in Panama. Back in her lab, she froze a set of fungi samples; some were used to trace the genetic origins of the epidemic, while others were stored for future work, according to the article. Amphibian die-offs have continued, and an estimated one-third of the world’s nearly 6,000 amphibian species are threatened with extinction. However, some populations of frogs and toads thought extinct have been recently rediscovered, in greatly reduced but growing numbers. In 2012, a University of Nevada, Reno, biologist hypothesized that some frog and toad populations were recovering because the Bd fungus had become less deadly. But she and her colleagues found no significant differences between the decade-old Bd samples from Longcore’s freezer and more recent samples from field sites in Panama, the article states. In lab studies, the researchers found that skin secretions from wild frogs were better able to inhibit Bd than skin secretions from frog populations moved into captivity to protect them from the fungus, suggesting that the wild frogs may have evolved better chemical defenses — or that the captive frogs, protected from pathogens for generations, may have evolved weaker ones, The Atlantic reported.