Skin-Eating Fungus Causes Mass Amphibian Extinctions! ... But Frogs, Salamanders Doing OK in Kane

Skin-Eating Fungus Causes Mass Amphibian Extinctions! … But Frogs, Salamanders Doing OK in Kane

This just in from EarthSky News …


Green Frog, Lithobates clamitans, very popular in Illinois.

Apparently — and we are not making this up — research published on March 29 indicates that a fungal disease called chytridiomycosis has caused dramatic population declines in more than 500 amphibian species — mostly frogs, but also toads and salamanders.

The delightful fungi actually eats away at the skin of amphibians and has completely wiped out some species.

So, is this something we should be worrying about here in Kane County, IL?

We asked our resident expert, Pam Otto, manager of nature programs and interpretive services at the Hickory Knolls Discovery Center and writer of the fabulous weekly Kane County Connect column “Good Natured,” to fill us in.

Otto says that, due to their extremely permeable skin, amphibians in general are pretty vulnerable to changes in their environment, in the air and water as well as on land.

Spring Peeper, Pseudacris crucifer, another Illinoisan.

“We have lots of surveys in the area that monitor their health, including the regional Calling Frog Survey ( and an annual tiger salamander survey in St. Charles Park District natural areas,” she said. “So even though most populations seem relatively stable, I’m hesitant to say they’re OK because you just never know what the next impact is going to be.”

With that said, Otto says she’s not aware that chytrid is a problem here.

“In fact I recall hearing a few years back that preserved specimens of Illinois frogs collected back in the 1800s have tested positive for the fungus, as do Illinois frogs today,” Otto said. “But for some reason they’re not dying around here the way they are in other parts of the world.”

One big thing that does affect amphibians around here is the practice of releasing animals that have been kept in captivity either as family pets or classroom study subjects.

Otto said any length of time spent out of their natural environment can expose them to fungi and other potential pathogens that can then be introduced into wild populations when the critters are released.

So, there you have it. Frogs and salamanders safe in Kane County.

On to the next.