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Reservoir-host amplification of disease impact in an endangered amphibian.

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journal contribution
posted on 2017-06-01, 00:00 authored by B C Scheele, D A Hunter, L A Brannelly, L F Skerratt, Don DriscollDon Driscoll
Emerging wildlife pathogens are an increasing threat to biodiversity. One of the most serious wildlife diseases is chytridiomycosis, caused by the fungal pathogen, Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd), which has been documented in over 500 amphibian species. Amphibians vary greatly in their susceptibility to Bd, with some species tolerating infection, while others experience rapid mortality. Reservoir hosts - species that carry infection while maintaining high abundance, but are rarely killed by disease - can increase extinction risk in highly susceptible, sympatric species. However, whether reservoir hosts amplify Bd in declining amphibian species has not been examined. We combine a laboratory study with field surveys, disease sampling, and statistical modeling to investigate the role of reservoir hosts in chytridiomycosis dynamics and species decline in an amphibian community in south-eastern Australia. We show that the non-declining common eastern froglet (Crinia signifera) is a reservoir host for Bd, with laboratory animals carrying intense infection burdens over 12 weeks and the majority of wild sampled individuals carrying intense infections. We find that the presence of C. signifera is strongly associated with Bd prevalence in the sympatric, IUCN red-listed northern corroboree frog (Pseudophryne pengilleyi). Consistent with disease amplification by a reservoir host, we find that P. pengilleyi has declined from areas with high C. signifera abundance. Our results suggest that when reservoir hosts are present, population declines can continue long after the initial emergence of Bd, highlighting an urgent need to assess extinction risk in remnant populations of other declined amphibian species. Reintroductions and in situ management strategies must focus on identifying reservoir hosts and minimizing exposure of threatened species. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.



Conservation biology






592 - 600




Hoboken, N. J.







Publication classification

C Journal article; C1 Refereed article in a scholarly journal

Copyright notice

2016, Wiley