Scientists have revealed that a highly infectious disease found in tadpoles could spell major trouble for frog populations around the world.

A team of British researchers found that the parasitic disease is caused by single-celled microbes called “protists.” The microbes have been found in the livers of tadpoles taken from six different countries and three continents, writes Kate Kelland for Live Mint.

Tadpole Disease Could Threaten Global Frog Populations

Frog populations threatened by tadpole disease

The findings of the study were published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences this Monday. The team state that the disease is distantly related to oyster parasites and is found in both tropical and temperate climates.

“Global frog populations are suffering serious declines and infectious disease has been shown to be a significant factor,” said study co-author Thomas Richards of Exeter University. “We now need to figure out if this novel microbe causes significant disease and could be contributing to the frog population declines.”

Amphibians are one of the most threatened animal groups in the world. Scientists claim that 32% of frog species are threatened of extinct, while 42% are listed as being in decline.

Falling animal populations may be a sign that the Earth is undergoing a sixth “mass-extinction event,” according to certain scientists. Species are going extinct at such a rate that it can be compared to the death of the dinosaurs, which occurred in just 250 years.

Species under pressure due to a variety of factors

A mounting body of research suggests that frogs, salamanders, newts and other amphibians are under increasing threat from factors including climate change, habitat loss and disease.

Amphibians are hardly the only animal group under threat. Insects such as bumblebees, which are vital for agriculture thanks to their role in pollinating crops, are also experiencing population decline.

Scientists have found that the area in which bumblebees can live is being reduced by increasing temperatures caused by global warming. If rising global temperatures cannot be checked, this area could be significantly reduced, with a devastating effect on agricultural production.

Climate change appears to be a factor in the loss of certain animal species, and could cause a chain reaction of events which reduce food security and increase competition for resources in the future.