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Diseases of Aquatic Organisms

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DAO 130:83-93 (2018)  -  DOI:

Disentangling causes of seasonal infection prevalence patterns: tropical tadpoles and chytridiomycosis as a model system

Sarah J. Sapsford1,2,*, Ross A. Alford1, Lin Schwarzkopf1

1College of Science and Engineering, Centre for Tropical Biodiversity and Climate Change, James Cook University, Townsville, Queensland 4811, Australia
2Present address: School of Biological Science, University of Canterbury, Christchurch 8041, New Zealand
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Identifying the factors that affect pathogen prevalence is critical to understanding the effects of wildlife diseases. We aimed to examine drivers of seasonal changes in the prevalence of infection by the amphibian chytrid fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis in tadpoles. Because tadpoles may be important reservoirs for this disease, examining them will aid in understanding how chytridiomycosis affects entire amphibian populations. We hypothesized that temperature is a strong driver of prevalence of Bd in tadpoles, and the accumulation of infection as tadpoles become larger and older also drives prevalence in this system. We studied Litoria rheocola, a tropical rainforest stream frog with seasonal recruitment of annual tadpoles, and surveyed 6 streams in northeastern Queensland, Australia. Comparisons among models relating infection status to stream type, season, their interaction, tadpole age, and water temperature showed that age explained a large portion of the variance in infection status. Across sites and seasons, larger, older tadpoles had increased mean probabilities of infection, indicating that a large component of the variation among individuals was related to age, and thus to cumulative infection risk. Our results indicate that in systems with annual tadpoles, seasonal changes in infection prevalence may be strongly affected by seasonal patterns of tadpole growth and development in addition to stream type, season, and water temperature. These effects may then influence prevalence of infection in terrestrial individuals in species that have relatively frequent contact with water. This reinforces the need to integrate studies of the drivers of pathogen prevalence across all host life history stages.

KEY WORDS: Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis · Cumulative risk · Disease dynamics · Life stage · Stream ecology · Tropical systems

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Cite this article as: Sapsford SJ, Alford RA, Schwarzkopf L (2018) Disentangling causes of seasonal infection prevalence patterns: tropical tadpoles and chytridiomycosis as a model system. Dis Aquat Org 130:83-93.

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