Frog-killing fungus, good news at last

This video from Spain is about the Mallorcan midwife toad.


Lizzie Wade


7:02 pm

A Frog-Killing Fungus Finally Meets Its Match on the Island of Mallorca

This fall, like every fall for the past six years, Jaime Bosch found himself dangling off a cliff on the island of Mallorca with a backpack full of tadpoles. The Spanish ecologist was rappelling down to the bottom of a steep canyon, preparing to return his precious cargo to the ponds where they had hatched.

Bosch, who works at Spain’s National Museum of Natural History, had evacuated the tadpoles weeks earlier, hoping to save them from certain death at the hands of the fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, better known as Bd. Since researchers discovered it in the late 1990s, the fungus has decimated amphibian populations around the world, leading to the collapse or extinction of at least 200 species. Bosch was hoping against hope that he could prevent the Mallorcan midwife toad (Alytes muletensis) from being next.

Bd is an insidious fungus, growing all over an infected amphibian’s skin—the organ through which the creatures breath and drink. Infection often leads to fatal organ failure. Normally, once Bd makes its way into an ecosystem, scientists can’t do much besides tally up the carnage.

Mallorca and its native toads have some unique characteristics that made Bosch think he might be able to save them. First of all, it’s a very simple system, ecologically speaking: one island, with one amphibian species. Plus, the island only has a few ponds, making it possible to capture every last tadpole that hatches in them. Finally, the ponds tend to dry out every summer and get refilled by autumn rains, which should flush out any Bd-infected water.

Not that it was easy. Hence the rappelling down into canyons to reach the ponds, loading the tadpoles into plastic water bottles, and making an arduous hike out. Once Bosch got the tadpoles back to his lab, he bathed them for seven days in an anti-fungal solution designed to kill any Bd spores growing on their skin. At first, he thought that would be enough to eliminate the fungus from the island. Optimistic, he loaded the tadpoles into a helicopter that would get them as close to the ponds as it could, before transferring them to his backpack for another rappelling trip down the canyons.

But when he and his team went back the next year, they found that the tadpoles were infected again. That meant the local environment was hiding a reservoir of Bd somewhere—most likely the adult toads that were too reclusive to catch.

Bosch decided that if his team couldn’t treat every infected animal, they would have to disinfect the whole place. So this time, after they evacuated the tadpoles to the lab for their anti-fungal baths, they drained the breeding ponds and scrubbed the underlying rock with a chemical call Virkon-S, renowned for its Bd killing ability.

“That’s what works. That’s when the fungus didn’t come back,” Bosch says. In an article published today in Biology Letters, he reports that his team successfully eliminated Bd from four out of five infected ponds on Mallorca. They repeated the protocol on the fifth pond this year, and Bosch hopes the whole island will be officially free of the fungus by the next tadpole season.

“It’s a monumental achievement,” says Brian Gratwicke, a biologist who leads the amphibian efforts at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in Washington, DC. “It provides huge hope for the whole community.”

But it’s not exactly transferable. Flying tadpoles around by helicopter? Rappelling down inaccessible canyons? Covering every rock in a pond with toxic chemicals? If this is what it takes to stop Bd on one island, in one simple ecosystem, how can scientists even hope to eradicate it in the rest of the world?

Well…they can’t. Karen Lips, a biologist at the University of Maryland who helped discover Bd, doubts any of these methods would be effective in the rainforest of Panama, where she works. “Sterilizing one pond is not going to do it. You’d have to sterilize the entire jungle.” Still, she says, such techniques could be useful for protecting other islands and isolated ecosystems from Bd. “Perhaps that’s what we’re going to be left with: lots of islands. Either islands in oceans, or mountaintop islands, or islands in a sea of concrete. Maybe that’s the way we’re going to be able to protect our amphibians in the future,” Lips says.

Bosch agrees that his protocol “is not a solution for eliminating Bd from everywhere in the world.” But, he says, “we can’t just stand still and do nothing,” watching amphibian after amphibian go extinct. “Every now and again [the amphibian science] community needs a win. And this is one of those wins,” Gratwicke says. Bosch won this battle. And sometimes, in a war, that’s the best you can hope for.

Rare mushroom discovery in The Hague city park

Haasiella venustissima, photo by Ivan Lietavec

Translated from the Dutch Mycological Society:

Wednesday, November 18th, 2015

As was not known until now, in the beginning of this year the extremely rare Haasiella venustissima fungus was discovered in a messy sand dune valley in the Westduinpark in The Hague. After initially they had disappeared in situ, they came back in early October in the same place and are still there. In the Netherlands Haasiella venustissima is known from only four locations.

Mushrooms in the Netherlands, video

On this 13 November 2015 video from the Netherlands, warden Hanne Tersmette shows mushrooms. Especially a mushroom circle; associated with witches in Dutch traditional superstition and language (‘heksenkring’).

Rare mushroom back in the Netherlands

Sarcoleotia platypus, photo by Jaap Venema

Translated from the Dutch Mycological Society:

Wednesday, November 11th, 2015

During a survey by the Mushroom Task Force Drenthe on November 2, 2015 in the Takkenhoogte nature reserve near Zuidwolde the Sarcoleotia platypus mushroom was found. At the time of the composition of the Red List of Mushrooms in 2008 the latest find dated from 1965, so Sarcoleotia platypus was considered extinct in the Netherlands.

Rare lion’s mane fungus back in nature reserve

This 2014 Dutch video is about a lion’s mane fungus in Heiloo in the Netherlands.

Translated from Dutch conservation organisation Natuurmonumenten:

Tuesday, November 3rd, 2015

Ranger Willem Regtop is pleased: after a few years he has found a Hericium erinaceus mushroom again in the woods of the Velhorst nature reserve in the Graafschap region.

This fungus is called in English “lion’s mane mushroom” and for good reason: the mushroom looks hairy, is the size of a football and is completely covered with soft yellow-white spines. The lion’s mane mushroom is on an old beech in Velhorst. It had for several years not been seen in this nature reserve.


Hericium erinaceus is a parasite that mainly uses stem wounds on beeches or sometimes oaks. Ranger Willem hopes that people now again will be able to admire the fungus, which is fairly rare in the Netherlands, every year in the Velhorst.

Rare mushroom discovery in the Netherlands

Lepiota tomentella

The Dutch Mycological Society reports today that recently Lepiota tomentella mushrooms were found north of Alkmaar city.

This species is rare in the Netherlands. Apart from the south of Limburg province, it had been found before only at two spots.

Mushrooms may really be magic after all.

Rare mushroom discovery in the Netherlands

Branched Collybia

Branched Collybia mushrooms live in many countries. But they are rare about everywhere, including in the Netherlands.

Recently, this species was found in the sand dunes near Bakkum.