Mount Union Professors Receive Grant to Research Golden Frogs

April 27, 2010

Dr. Brandon Sheafor and Dr. Jonathon Scott, professors of biology at Mount Union College have been awarded a grant to fund their research on antimicrobial peptides in Panamanian Golden Frogs by the Project Golden Frog/ Atelopus Conservation Trust based in Denver, Colorado.

 

There are two species of 'golden frogs,' Atelopus seteki and Atelopus varius, that have been affected by the presence of the fungus Batrchochytrium dendrobatidis in the environment. This fungus has caused a massive decline in amphibian populations in central and South America. 'Golden frogs' have been seriously affected by the fungus. 'There are probably fewer than 1,000 of these frogs left on the planet, and most are in captivity,' Sheafor said.

These frogs may rely on antimicrobial peptides to resist the effects of the fungus, but individual frogs vary in the effectives of their peptides against the fungus. Some frogs have a very high resistance to the fungus, and others have very little resistance. The goal of their research is to identify individual frogs that are naturally resistant to the fungus, and selectively breed them to create populations that are capable of producing effective anti-microbial peptides.

'The real advantage to working with the Cleveland Zoo is that they have the facilities for housing the frogs, and we have the facilities for the analysis,' said Sheafor.

 

'There are a lot of possibilities for research with these frogs, everything from chemistry to biochemistry to molecular biology. We hope to involve a lot of students, and to receive more funding in the future to continue our research, which requires not only travel to Cleveland, but possibly to other locations, such as the San Diego Zoo.'

Scott and Sheafor hope to have the final reports on the research funded by this grant completed by December 2008, and are looking forward to the opportunity to help the frogs eventually return to their natural environment.

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