A fungus threatens survival of the only toads that live high in the Rocky Mountains
Biologists devised a treatment they hope will save the boreal toad, but first they must catch the tiny creatures to determine if their plan will work
The Colorado Sun
Tim Korpita is wearing blue rubber gloves and thigh-high waders, but when someone shouts “Toad!” he lunges like a ninja.
He takes a giant step over the marsh grasses and is on his stomach at the edge of a slow-moving creek, clutching a tiny, speckled boreal toad between his thumb and index finger. He immediately turns the inch-long creature, checking for a green or pink spot on its inner thigh.
Korpita, a University of Colorado doctoral candidate, and Colorado Parks and Wildlife biologists last summer captured 250 boreal toadlets — beyond tadpoles but not quite terrestrial toads — in a high-elevation wetland along Cottonwood Creek. They injected them with a spot of either pink or green dye, visible through amphibian skin when held up to the sunlight.
Pink was the control group, while the green-tagged toads received antifungal bacterial baths that scientists hoped would protect them from a pathogen killing off boreal toads throughout the Rocky Mountains. The disease is killing amphibians across the globe as biologists race to stop it before it’s too late.
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