Snake Declines Linked to Frog Fungus

Indigo Expeditions

Snake Declines Linked to Frog Fungus

The decline of amphibian species due to a fungal disease called chytridiomycosis (or chytrid for short) has been well documented. Many tropical amphibian communities have experienced dramatic declines in numbers, and several species have become extinct as a consequence of chytrid. While this is obviously a serious problem for amphibian conservation, the loss of these communities has consequences for the ecology of many other species that interact with amphibians in some way.

Amphibians often find themselves in a pivotal position in the community of the habitats that they live in. This is especially the case in the tropics, where frogs in particular are very numerous. They are not only major predators of insects, but are also hunted by many other species. As such, frogs represent a key component of tropical forest communities.

It has long been feared that the decline of frogs from tropical forests would have cascading consequences for their prey and predators alike. In a recent scientific paper published in in the renowned journal Science, Elise Zipkin and her collaborators have documented, for the first time, the cascading effect of the decline in frogs due to chytrid on a snake community in Panama.

Frogs are eaten by most snake species at some point during their lives, and this groundbreaking survey was able to show that the snake community suffered from a decline is species diversity as a result of the decline of frogs. Not only that, the study also showed that the body condition of the snakes that were found after the decline, had a lower body condition than those prior to the decline in frogs. This suggests that those snake species that remain are finding it harder to find food and survive.

Our work in the cloud forests of Alta Verapaz is helping us to not only understand what is happening to the frog community, but it will also help us to better understand the relationship between frogs and frog feeding snakes, such as the Rax Bolay, in the region.

First Published: 15 April 2020

Yellow blotched palm pitviper

Hartwegs Spikethumb Frog

Tropical snake diversity collapses after widespread amphibian loss


Biodiversity is declining at unprecedented rates worldwide. Yet cascading effects of biodiversity loss on other taxa are largely unknown because baseline data are often unavailable. We document the collapse of a Neotropical snake community after the invasive fungal pathogen Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis caused a chytridiomycosis epizootic leading to the catastrophic loss of amphibians, a food source for snakes. After mass mortality of amphibians, the snake community contained fewer species and was more homogeneous across the study site, with several species in poorer body condition, despite no other systematic changes in the environment. The demise of the snake community after amphibian loss demonstrates the repercussive and often unnoticed consequences of the biodiversity crisis and calls attention to the invisible declines of rare and data-deficient species.



Published : 1st November 2022


Field Notes Archive

You may also like to read…

Community Cloud Forest Conservation in Alta Verapaz

Community Cloud Forest Conservation in Alta Verapaz

Every year, at Community Cloud Forest Conservation, we have a wonderful opportunity to learn more about our amphibians and reptiles, because of the expertise of Indigo Expeditions that they bring in their expeditions, their volunteers that come here, and we have a lovely time with them. It’s really a wonderful time.

New caiman pool at La Aurora Zoo

New caiman pool at La Aurora Zoo

New caiman pool at La Aurora Zoo Indigo Expeditions met with Carlos Cozano, head of reptiles, to see the new caiman...

Sea Turtle Conservation Guatemala

Sea Turtle Conservation Guatemala

Sea Turtle Conservation Guatemala Hi, everyone, its Rowland from Indigo Expeditions and I'm here on the Pacific coast...

Indigo News