In 2009 we studied 30 populations of Betic Midwife toad (Alytes dickhilleni) an amphibian species endemic to the southeast of the peninsular, over their entire range, to determine the degree of infection by the fungal pathogen. This species is distributed from sea level to high mountain areas, and we know that they are particularly susceptible to the development of chytridiomycosis.
Although we only detected two infected populations, these were located at two extremes of its range (north of Cazorla and west of Malaga). By conducting a small study, we found that tadpoles infected in the wild died around the time of metamorphosis at low temperatures. Therefore, it was a very real and worrying possibility that the infection could spread to the small and rare populations of the highlands.
Interestingly, the two infected locations were those that had more interaction with people interested in the environment: one of them is very close to a biological field station where researchers often work, and the other is the iconic location where the species was described and for this reason, many enthusiasts of herpetology in Europe visit. This "coincidence" should make us more conscious about our responsibility for the spread of this dangerous disease.
Last week we visited the Natural Park of the Cazorla, Segura and Las Villas mountain ranges, in the Jaen province, to check on the progress of the infection. In 2015 we will study 29 populations throughout the natural park within a research project funded by the Government of Andalusia and led by researcher Jordi Bascompte.