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Scientists believe that the snakes in Panama, Central America, are starving because of frog population decline.
In their report, scientists from the University of Maryland and Michigan State University found that the decreasing number of snake species in Panama is related to a frog disease.
A fungal disease wiped out a number of frog species in Central America. Since frogs and other amphibians are snakes’ main food source, the number and variety of snake species also naturally diminished.
The scientists studied the snake population in one of Panama’s national parks for 13 years. They compared the data they collected seven years before the fungus appeared with the data they got six years after the fungus infected the area.
Before the fungus appeared, the scientists found 30 different snake species in the park, but afterward, they only found 21. The snakes they found were also skinnier and appeared to be starving.
Because snake sightings are rare, the scientists were not able to determine the exact number of snake species that declined. Nonetheless, they are certain that the drop in frog population caused the decrease in snake numbers. Other environmental factors were ruled out because the park has a protected environment.
According to the scientists, the findings are significant to animal conservation research. One of the authors, Elise Zipkin, says that the findings impact other animals, and in turn affect people. Co-author Julie Ray warned that if snakes become extinct, the whole ecosystem will be affected because snakes keep rodent population down and serve as food for other animals.