Sunday, April 14, 2024

There’s a frog in India with a mushroom growing on it. Scientists have never seen something like this before

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A bunch of nature enthusiasts in Karnataka, India, were checking out a gang of golden-backed frogs near a roadside pond. They spotted something strange on one frog – a little mushroom was growing on its side.

Scientists are puzzled about how this healthy-looking frog ended up with a fungus buddy. It’s a never-seen-before event, as per a report in Reptiles and Amphibians journal from January.

Lohit Y T, a wetlands specialist with World Wildlife Fund-India in Bengaluru, who was part of the frog-finding crew, shared, “When I first saw the frog with the mushroom, it blew my mind. I wanted to document it because this is totally new to us. We hoped it’s just a rare thing and not harmful to the frog.”

The frog species, called Rao’s intermediate golden-backed frog or scientifically Hylarana intermedia, is commonly found in the states of Karnataka and Kerala in southwestern India. They are small, growing only up to 2.9 inches (7.4 centimeters) long.

As the nature enthusiasts observed the frog with the mushroom, it moved around on the twig it was sitting on, even reaching the very tip. However, the mushroom stayed firmly in place, and the group made sure not to disturb the frog.

The scientists found a frog in June 2023 and didn’t take it. So, they don’t know why the frog had a mushroom on its side or what happened to it.

Later, when experts looked at pictures, they realized the mushroom was a common bonnet, a type that usually grows on dead wood. This kind of mushroom usually gets nutrients from dead things, but a study in 2023 found it could also live on plants.

The study also suggested that this mushroom could have a good relationship with plants or trees, where both the plant and the mushroom benefit. For example, on trees, it could help by getting rid of dead branches.

We don’t know what will happen to the frog with the mushroom. There are some ideas about why it happened, but it’s still a mystery.

When Alyssa Wetterau Kaganer, a researcher at Cornell University, saw the report about the frog with the mushroom, she found it really interesting.

“According to her email, fungi are like flexible living things that can adjust to changes in their surroundings. They might end up growing in unexpected places if they encounter new potential hosts in different environments or climates.

It’s hard to say what will happen to the frog without more research on its condition. However, there’s a chance that a healthy frog could handle a bit of this fungus on its skin without getting sick. But, if the fungus spreads a lot on the skin or gets inside the frog’s body, it could show signs of a fungal disease. Common signs include changes in the frog’s behavior or skin problems like ulcers or lumps. In some cases, these infections can be deadly for at least some of the affected animals.

There are different kinds of fungi that can infect frogs, and there might still be undiscovered interactions between fungi and frogs.”

Karthikeyan Vasudevan, a top scientist at the Center for Cellular and Molecular Biology in India, expressed worry about unusual things like the mushroom growth found on a frog. He wasn’t part of the discovery but found it intriguing.

Detecting sick wild animals is tough because they often die or get eaten quickly. Vasudevan thinks it’s interesting and suggests further observation and screening of frogs to understand the situation better.

At first, Vasudevan thought the mushroom was stuck on the frog’s skin, not a growth. However, after seeing photos, he confirmed it was a live mushroom on a live frog. He speculates that a small piece of woody debris under the frog’s skin might have sprouted the mushroom.

India is dealing with a frog-killing disease called chytridiomycosis caused by a fungus. It affects over 700 amphibian species globally. The disease is present in low levels in frog hotspots across India. However, it’s unclear if it’s connected to the mushroom discovery.

The specific mushroom on the frog isn’t closely linked to the fungus causing chytridiomycosis. Researchers aren’t worried that the mushroom indicates chytridiomycosis directly. Still, they consider the possibility that a frog with the mushroom might be more vulnerable to a chytrid infection.

The frog with the mushroom on its side might get sick more easily from a disease called chytridiomycosis because of the mushroom. On the other hand, it could be stronger against the disease because the mushroom might make the frog’s immune system stronger.

Y T said, “It’s not common to find a frog like this, so we don’t have much hope of studying it further.” The researchers will go back to the same place next monsoon season when it’s warm and rainy, and there are a lot of frogs.

Y T also said, “If we find it again, that would be amazing! Many people who love frogs and experts visit this place. It would be great if a researcher could study it more, but it’s not very likely to happen.”

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