Wednesday, 23 May 2012

More Parasites Mean Healthier Frogs


Parasites seem to be each other's worst enemy, and a frog's best friend, new research indicates. Increases in the diversity of parasites that attack amphibians cause a decrease in the infection success rate of those parasites.

"Collectively, our findings illustrate the importance of considering the hidden role of parasite diversity in affecting disease risk," study researcher Pieter Johnson, of the University of Colorado, said in a statement. "While our study was on amphibian diseases, there is ample evidence to suggest similar processes can be occurring in humans and other groups of animals."

Scientists are concerned about how changes in biodiversity affect the risk of infectious diseases in humans and wildlife. Charting the relationships between parasites and amphibians is important since few studies have examined the influence of parasite diversity on disease, and the fact that amphibians are declining faster than any group of animals on the planet due to human activities like habitat loss, pollution and emerging diseases, Johnson said.

In the new study, the team sampled 134 California ponds for parasites, known as trematodes, comparing their abundance and distribution with the health of more than 2,000 Pacific chorus frogs in those ponds. The researchers compared their data from the field studies with extensive lab experiments that charted the health of the frogs in the presence of different combinations of six common amphibian parasites.

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