DAO 123:55-65 (2017)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/dao03090

No evidence for effects of infection with the amphibian chytrid fungus on populations of yellow-bellied toads

Norman Wagner1,*, Claus Neubeck2, Daniela Guicking3, Lennart Finke3, Martin Wittich3, Kurt Weising3, Christian Geske4, Michael Veith

1Trier University, Department of Biogeography, Universitätsring 15, 54296 Trier, Germany
2University of Kassel, FB 6, Aquatic Ecology and Water Resources Development, Nordbahnhofstr. 1a, 37213 Witzenhausen, Germany
3University of Kassel, FB 10, Institute of Biology, Heinrich-Plett-Str. 40, 34132 Kassel, Germany
4Hessian Agency for Nature Conservation, Environment and Geology (HLNUG), Department of Nature Conservation, Europastraße 10, 35394 Gießen, Germany
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: The parasitic chytrid fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd) can cause the lethal disease chytridiomycosis in amphibians and therefore may play a role in population declines. The yellow-bellied toad Bombina variegata suffered strong declines throughout western and northwestern parts of its range and is therefore listed as highly endangered for Germany and the federal state of Hesse. Whether chytridiomycosis may play a role in the observed local declines of this strictly protected anuran species has never been tested. We investigated 19 Hessian yellow-bellied toad populations for Bd infection rates, conducted capture-mark-recapture studies in 4 of them over 2 to 3 yr, examined survival histories of recaptured infected individuals, and tested whether multi-locus heterozygosity of individuals as well as expected heterozygosity and different environmental variables of populations affect probabilities of Bd infection. Our results show high prevalence of Bd infection in Hessian yellow-bellied toad populations, but although significant decreases in 2 populations could be observed, no causative link to Bd as the reason for this can be established. Mass mortalities or obvious signs of disease in individuals were not observed. Conversely, we show that growth of Bd-infected populations is possible under favorable habitat conditions and that most infected individuals could be recaptured with improved body indices. Neither genetic diversity nor environmental variables appeared to affect Bd infection probabilities. Hence, genetically diverse amphibian specimens and populations may not automatically be less susceptible for Bd infection.


KEY WORDS: Bombina variegata · Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis · Amphibian decline · Population decline · Microsatellites · Chytridiomycosis


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Cite this article as: Wagner N, Neubeck C, Guicking D, Finke L and others (2017) No evidence for effects of infection with the amphibian chytrid fungus on populations of yellow-bellied toads. Dis Aquat Org 123:55-65. https://doi.org/10.3354/dao03090

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