DAO 82:3-18 (2008)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/dao01974

Widespread occurrence of the amphibian chytrid fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis in the southeastern USA

Betsie B. Rothermel1,10,*, Susan C. Walls2,11, Joseph C. Mitchell3,12, C. Kenneth Dodd Jr.4, Lisa K. Irwin5,13, David E. Green6, Victoria M. Vazquez7, James W. Petranka8, Dirk J. Stevenson9

1Austin Peay State University, The Center of Excellence for Field Biology, PO Box 4718, Clarksville, Tennessee 37044, USA
2US Geological Survey, National Wetlands Research Center, 700 Cajundome Blvd., Lafayette, Louisiana 70506, USA
3University of Richmond, Department of Biology, Richmond, Virginia 23173, USA
4University of Florida, Department of Wildlife Ecology and Conservation, Gainesville, Florida 32611, USA
5US Fish and Wildlife Service, Ecological Services, 105 Amity Road, Conway, Arkansas 72032, USA
6US Geological Survey, National Wildlife Health Center, 6006 Schroeder Road, Madison, Wisconsin 53711, USA
7University of Georgia, Department of Plant Biology, Athens, Georgia 30602, USA
8University of North Carolina at Asheville, Department of Biology, Asheville, North Carolina 28804, USA
9US Department of Defense, Fort Stewart Fish and Wildlife Branch, 1557 Frank Cochran Drive, Building 1145, Fort Stewart, Georgia 31314, USA
10Present address: Archbold Biological Station, PO Box 2057, Lake Placid, Florida 33862, USA
11Present address: US Geological Survey, Florida Integrated Science Center, 7920 NW 71st Street, Gainesville, Florida 32653, USA
12Present address: Mitchell Ecological Research Service LLC, PO Box 5638, Gainesville, Florida 32627, USA
13Present address: Ouachita Technical College, Arts, Sciences and Education Division, One College Circle, Malvern, Arkansas 72104, USA

ABSTRACT: From 1999 to 2006, we sampled >1200 amphibians for the fungal pathogen Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd) at 30 sites in the southeastern USA. Using histological techniques or PCR assays, we detected chytrid infection in 10 species of aquatic-breeding amphibians in 6 states. The prevalence of chytrid infection was 17.8% for samples of postmetamorphic amphibians examined using skin swab-PCR assays (n = 202 samples from 12 species at 4 sites). In this subset of samples, anurans had a much higher prevalence of infection than caudates (39.2% vs. 5.5%, respectively). Mean prevalence in ranid frogs was 40.7%. The only infected salamanders were Notophthalmus viridescens at 3 sites. We found infected amphibians from late winter through late spring and in 1 autumn sample. Although we encountered moribund or dead amphibians at 9 sites, most mortality events were not attributed to Bd. Chytridiomycosis was established as the probable cause of illness or death in fewer than 10 individuals. Our observations suggest a pattern of widespread and subclinical infections. However, because most of the sites in our study were visited only once, we cannot dismiss the possibility that chytridiomycosis is adversely affecting some populations. Furthermore, although there is no evidence of chytrid-associated declines in our region, the presence of this pathogen is cause for concern given global climate change and other stressors. Although presence-absence surveys may still be needed for some taxa, such as bufonids, we recommend that future researchers focus on potential population-level effects at sites where Bd is now known to occur.


KEY WORDS: Chytridiomycosis · Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis · Geographic distribution · Acris · Notophthalmus · Pseudacris · Rana


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Cite this article as: Rothermel BB, Walls SC, Mitchell JC, Dodd CK Jr and others (2008) Widespread occurrence of the amphibian chytrid fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis in the southeastern USA. Dis Aquat Org 82:3-18. https://doi.org/10.3354/dao01974

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