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When frogs die off, snake diversity plummets


Since 1998, scientists have documented the global loss of amphibians. More than 500 amphibian species have declined in numbers, including 90 that have gone extinct, due to the fungal pathogen Batrachochytrium, commonly known as chytrid.

A new study by researchers from the University of Maryland and Michigan State University shows, for the first time, the ripple effects of amphibian losses on snakes. The results, published in the February 14, 2020, issue of the journal Science, reveal that after chytrid swept through a remote forest in Panama, decimating frog populations, the number of snake species scientists detected declined dramatically, causing the snake community to become more homogenized.

“This study highlights the invisibility of other changes that are occurring as a result of losing amphibians,” said Karen Lips, a professor of biology at UMD and a co-author of the study. MORE

Header image: Conceptual diagram of the cascading effects of amphibian losses (shadowed in red) on other taxonomic groups. This study documents the collapse of snake diversity (shadowed in orange) after amphibian mass mortality from an invasive fungal pathogen. Other studies have documented changes in the structure and functional diversity of macroinvertebrates, primary producers, and inorganic and organic material (shadowed in yellow). Additional taxa in the ecosystem (shadowed in white) could also be impacted by amphibian declines but this may never be known because of data limitations. Credit: Mollie Newman

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