Researchers believe that the populations of the Darwin's frog are infected with Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, which causes the chytrid fungus.
The Darwin's frog (Rhinoderma darwinii) in Chile and Argentina faces extinction due to the chytridiomycosis, or chytrid fungus that is killing off millions of frogs around the world, according to a study published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B.
The researchers found that the infected populations of the frog are declining and because they are infected with Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd), the populations are at a risk of extinction within 15 years after they contracted the disease.
The highly threatened species was thought to have stable populations, but since the frogs may have been infected more than 10 years ago, and the impact of the infection only now coming to light, an urgent call for conservation of the species has been made.
"Whilst this study focuses on the iconic Darwin's frog, its implications could be equally grave for many other species,” Benedikt Schmidt from the University of Zurich, a co-author of the study, told Science Daily. “We've long recognised the dramatic toll chytrid fungus is taking on amphibians globally — but believed the disease's impact on host populations would quickly become apparent."
"This 'cryptic' nature of infectious disease witnessed amongst Darwin's frogs in Chile could potentially be causing similar 'slow-burn' declines among wildlife species elsewhere — contributing to longer-term population declines and extinctions despite the lack of obvious mass-mortalities."
Darwin’s frogs are native to forest streams in Argentina and Chile and are named in honor of Charles Darwin, who is credited with discovering them. They are the only land vertebrate in which the male becomes pregnant and carries the tadpoles inside its vocal sac until they metamorphose into baby frogs, at which time they are expelled out of the frog’s mouth. They grow to an adult length of 2.1 to 3.1cm and have a head shaped like a triangle do to its fleshy proboscis on its snout. It is brown and light beige in coloration as well as mottled green with black ragged stripes, designed to resemble a dead leaf to predators.