Until recently the Chytridiomycota were thought to be mostly detritivores, living on dead material, but at least one species is pathogenic. The species of Chytridiomycota, or Chytrid fungi, that is killing amphibians worldwide is Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis.
Work carried out at UC Berkeley and published in PNAS last year now suggests that the fungus may end up playing a bigger role in the frog's demise than previously thought because of the pathogen's ability to spread over long distances and possibly persist in the environment as a consequence of sexual reproduction. A study of the genetics of the fungus provided the first evidence of genetic recombination in B. dendrobatidis, which results in multiple, related genotypes and suggests that sexual reproduction is occurring - even though spores have not been discovered.
This work was carried out in the Briggs lab in Integrative Biology in association with the Taylor lab in Plant and Microbial Biology and is part of a larger project on chytridiomycosis (the disease caused by B. dendrobatidis) and the mountain yellow-legged frog led by Cheryl Briggs, UC Berkeley associate professor of integrative biology. Cherie has now moved to UCSB so there is an opportunity to get involved in this research if it interests you.