On a remote lake on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula, something is killing the pristine lake’s population of rough-skinned newts, a once-abundant amphibian now littering the shore with tiny carcasses.

Amphibian populations in much of the world have been collapsing, in what has been dubbed the “amphibian apocalypse.” Many of the froggy victims have apparently been felled by a type of invasive fungus known as chytrid.

A warming climate can put some pathogens in overdrive, enabling them to expand their ranges into formerly colder territories. That’s apparently not the case for chytrid fungus.

Jonah Piovia-Scott.

“It’s tricky,” says Jonah Piovia-Scott, a biologist at Washington State University-Vancouver. “Bd and Bsal don’t tolerate warmer temperatures. Above approximately room temperature, those pathogens start to do quite poorly.”

Still, hotter temperatures and drier summers can weaken many amphibians, leaving them more susceptible to pathogens.

“In these animals’ habitats, drought conditions force animals closer together,” Piovia-Scott says.

Less distancing can mean more disease spreading.

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