Maybe it wasn’t a chytrid-infected frog hopping the canal. Maybe it was scientists or tourists carrying the fungus on the soles of their shoes. A new report on the Panama Canal breach by the frog-killing chytrid fungus contains new, helpful perspective. Mongabay.com’s Rhett A. Butler writes, among other things, that:
“…there has been cautious hope that the Panama Canal would serve as a natural barrier to slow or even stop the spread of Chytrid to eastern Panama, a particularly species-rich region that had so far avoided the decimation seen in western Panama and Costa Rica. Now an international team of researchers report that Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis has been detected in three species east of the Panama Canal at Soberanía National Park. Although the scientists note that the results are preliminary and more work needs to be done to determine the origin and incidence of the Chytridiomycosis in Soberanía, the finding is bad news for Panama’s amphibians.
“The scientists say that physical barriers to the spread of Chytrid — including salt water, deforested lowlands where high temperatures kill the fungus, and the Panama Canal — are being “easily overcome” in Panama by “human movement of the pathogen”. In other words, human activities like tourism, scientific research, and construction are facilitating the epidemic. The authors suggest that measures to reduce transportation of Chytrid such as ‘bleaching boots and cleaning field gear between sites, and providing information at eco-lodges’ could help contain the disease.”