Researchers have discovered that climate change makes frogs more susceptible to deadly diseases, according to a study that will be published in the journal Nature Climate Change. In fact, experiments with frogs found that they are at higher risk of a disease caused by the fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis if the temperatures fluctuate wildly.
“Increases in climate variability are likely to make it easier for parasites to infect their hosts,” Thomas Raffel of Oakland University told Reuters. “We think this could exacerbate the effects of some disease.”
Using an incubator, researchers replicated changing temperatures for Cuban tree frogs. Mr. Raffel exposed the frogs to the fungus to determine their susceptibility to chytridiomycosis under unpredictable climate conditions. The frogs exposed to wild temperature swings had higher levels of infection, while frogs exposed to normal temperature changes had lower levels of infection.
Mr. Raffel believes that the fungus is better able to adapt to the unpredictable changes in temperature. Frogs, he argues, are much larger than the fungus and, as a result, take a longer time to adapt to the temperature changes.
Citing field data, scientists already believe that climate change is affecting frog populations.
Mr. Raffel says that a lot of climate change models are based on changes in average temperatures and not extreme weather conditions.
“We’re highlighting this glaring hole in our understanding of how climate change affects biodiversity,” Mr. Raffel said.