Extinction is Natural, Part Two

A microscopic view of the Chytrid Fungus.
A microscopic view of the Chytrid Fungus. | Source

Behold above the Chytrid Frog Fungus (Batrachochytrium dendrobatidium), which has one advantage and two disadvantages as a biological species. It's one advantage is a major one: since at least 1998, it has expanded it's parasitical range to include many (but not all) different species of frogs, toads and other amphibians around the planet Earth. One of it's disadvantages has been (to date) a relatively minor one: it is a very unattractive creature in the eyes of the world's current dominant species - Homo Sapiens. The Chytrid Frog Fungus' other disadvantage is a vastly more important problem: it has not adapted well to the amphibian species it lives upon, therefore killing it's host animals. Someday soon, the Fungust will have few susceptible hosts remaining to live upon and it's own future prospects become no more promising than the amphibian species it is currently driving to extinction. The story of the dysfunctional relationship between the Chytrid Frog Fungus and it's hapless amphibian hosts is a tragic one, and one of the best descriptions of the unpleasant details is in this informative article in AmphibianArk.org.

This Red-eyed Tree Frog is on the alert for the Chytrid Frog Fungus.
This Red-eyed Tree Frog is on the alert for the Chytrid Frog Fungus. | Source

There is no shortage of well-deserved concern about the frogs - although rather less about the fungus' devastating effects on toads and other amphibians, significantly enough - and you can find dozens of concerned websites, such as savethefrogs.com.

So, the current dominant species on Earth finds most frogs to be attractive and the Chytrid Fungus' threat to the world's frogs is a very serious concern. But, humans are less attracted to most toads, so the Chytrid Fungus' threat to the world's toads is somewhat less worrying. Further down the scale, humans have distinctly mixed feelings about salamanders and other amphibians, so the Chytrid Fungus' threat to the world's other amphibians is rather less worrying than the threat to toads. Finally, as mentioned above, the current dominant species on Earth finds most fungi - and especially annoying ones like the Chytrid Fungus (Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis) - to be singularly unattractive and its' possible future extinction to be of absolutely no concern. In fact, many humans would be very pleased to see the Chytrid Fungus disappear down to the last individual cell ... and watch the Chytrid Fungus go the way of the Dodo bird (Raphus cucullatus).

This Cane Toad displays his attractive side. (Courtesy of invasive.org)
This Cane Toad displays his attractive side. (Courtesy of invasive.org)

Let us stretch our imaginations here a little bit. We can see that many nature-lovers and naturalists are very disturbed by the prospect of losing potentially hundreds of the world's frog - and toad and other amphibian - species to the Chytrid Fungus. But, let's flip the mirror around and look at the opposite view. How many people - if any - would be concerned if the frogs, toads and amphibians had developed a strong appetite, back in 1998, for a tasty fungus called the Chytrid Fungus? How many websites, e-mails, field trips, scientific conferences, scientific papers, fund-raising drives and letters to politicians could you foresee, as humans attempt to save the endangered Chytrid Fungus, Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, from going the way of the Wooly Mammoth (Mammuthus primigenius)?

You and I probably agree: pretty darn few, if any, human beings would try to save the Chytrid Fungus.

On the other hand, how much blood, sweat and treasure should we expend to save the Hellbender Salamander species? Yes, I'm referring to the relatively unattractive Hellbender Salamander, pictured in all of it's homely glory below?

This Hellbender salamander may become an unwitting victim of human-kind's discrimination.  (Courtesy of mailchimp.com)
This Hellbender salamander may become an unwitting victim of human-kind's discrimination. (Courtesy of mailchimp.com)

Would it be safe to conclude, from reading this article ('hub') and using your own judgement, that the world's current dominant species is only selectively interested in the extinction of certain types of the Earth's living species? Out of the millions of currently living species on Earth, which ones deserve our strongest efforts to rescue them? Which living species deserve at least some of our limited resources, in an effort to save them? Which living species deserve no significant effort, in order to save them from extinction? Finally, which - if any - living species should human beings (the latest and current dominant species on Earth) actively attempt to eradicate ... and thereby force into permanent and irrevocable extinction?

Boy, did we just swerve from Biology into Ethics? Time for a course correction! Personally, I prefer the firmer bedrock of biological science over the relativistic quicksand found in ethical philosophy.

An Unpleasant Poll

If one of them had to go extinct, would you choose the Frog or the Fungus?

See results without voting

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