Of 200 caecilians tested, 58 were found to be positive for the fungus, many which later died.
The news that the wormlike creatures can die from the fungus came from English scientists at the Natural History Museum and the Zoological Society of London. They captured more than 200 specimens from five countries representing 29 different species of the elusive creatures and tested them for Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis. Of the 200 specimens tested, 58 tested positive for the fungus (30 percent of total collected), with many later dying of chytridiomycosis.
"The fungus was known to infect and potentially kill both the other major groups of amphibians, but we did not know if it definitively could infect caecilians in the wild, and whether it could potentially also kill them," Museum zoologist and lead researcher David Gower said in a Natural History Museum news release. "We now know both of these are the case and so this potentially major threat needs to be taken into consideration in caecilian conservation biology."
The research shows that all major groups of amphibians are infected by the chytrid fungus, and the previous notion that it spread via water is also incorrect as caecilians live in the soil and underground. The fungus is a parasite that lives in the outer skin layers of amphibians, damaging the protein keratin in the amphibian's skin, preventing the animal from breathing and taking in water.