A NEW deadly disease with a ‘high kill-rate’ is wiping out amphibians across Spain.

Swarms of frogs, toads and newts have been killed by Ranavirus in northern Spain and the disease is now heading south.

A lower number of amphibians could spark an increase in the numbers of spiders causing Spain to become overrun by eight-legged arachnids.

University College London’s Dr Stephen Price – studying the disease in the Picos de Europa National Park since the first outbreak in 2005 – said all amphibian species are ‘highly susceptible’ to it.

Dr Price said: “Until the outbreaks, we didn’t really know about this lineage of the virus.

“We’ve seen major population collapses in three species: the common midwife toad, the common toad and the alpine newt.

“It is a pretty graphic disease with a high kill-rate. We’ve shown these viruses have caused simultaneous declines in several species of host.”

Dr Price added that a decline in the number of toads and frogs could impact upon Spain’s wider ecosystems with animals such as spiders benefiting from a lower number of natural predators.

The virus has also been discovered in other parts of Europe as well as in China.