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Smithsonian scientists find the frog legs trade may facilitate spread of pathogens
Date:11/19/2009

Most countries throughout the world participate in the $40-million-per-year culinary trade of frog legs in some way, with 75 percent of frog legs consumed in France, Belgium and the United States. Scientists at the Smithsonian Institution and colleagues have found that this trade is a potential carrier of pathogens deadly to amphibians. The team's findings are published in the scientific journal Frontiers in Ecology, Thursday, Nov. 19.

Amphibians are rapidly declining worldwide. More than one-third of the nearly 6,000 amphibian species are threatened with extinctiondisease is one of the main causes. Among the known amphibian pathogens, the parasitic fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, also known as amphibian chytrid (KI-trid), is a top concern. The fungus, which attacks keratin proteins in the skin of amphibians, including frogs, causes respiratory and neurological damage and eventually death.

"Amphibian chytrid is an unusual example of a disease that is a primary cause of extinction in amphibian species," said Brian Gratwicke, biologist at the Smithsonian's National Zoo and lead author of the team's paper. "In fact, amphibian chytrid has been listed as a likely threat in 94 cases out of the 159 extinct and potentially extinct amphibian species. There are several hypotheses about how amphibian chytrid has spread around the world, but the trade in amphibians for food, bait, pets and laboratory animals has been identified as the most likely mode of spread."

Although consuming amphibian legs is familiar to many people as a culinary curiosity, the global extent of the international trade is unknown. The team of scientists' research focused on 1996 through 2006, during which more than 100,000 metric tons of frog legs were imported from both wild and farmed sources, at a net value approaching half a billion dollars. One kilogram of frog legs averaged about $4 over this perioda kilogram of frog legs requires 10 to 40 individ
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Contact: John Gibbons
gibbonsjp@si.edu
202-633-5187
Smithsonian
Source:Eurekalert  

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