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Diseases of Aquatic Organisms

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DAO 145:145-157 (2021)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/dao03607

Translocation does not influence amphibian chytrid fungus prevalence among wild eastern hellbenders Cryptobranchus alleganiensis

Emilly Nolan1, Bradley Nissen1, William Sutton1,*, Michael Freake2, Rebecca Hardman3

1Wildlife Ecology Laboratory, Department of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, Tennessee State University, Nashville, TN 37209, USA
2Department of Biology, Lee University, Cleveland, TN 37311, USA
3Department of Forestry, Wildlife, and Fisheries, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN 37996, USA
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Disease monitoring is an essential step in translocation projects, specifically in amphibians where emerging pathogens such as the chytrid fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd) are linked to population declines. The eastern hellbender Cryptobranchus alleganiensis is a large, fully aquatic salamander experiencing precipitous range-wide population declines; however, the role Bd plays in these declines is unclear. To augment declining hellbender populations and determine effects of translocation on Bd prevalence, we conducted a translocation study of wild adult hellbenders from 2 source streams with abundant hellbender populations to 2 streams with declining populations in east Tennessee, USA. In 2018, we implanted radio transmitters into 30 hellbenders and sampled them periodically for Bd until 17 of the 30 hellbenders were translocated in 2019. We attempted to recapture translocated hellbenders approximately every 45 d for 3 mo to determine Bd prevalence post-release. We used qPCR to detect Bd and quantify zoospore loads on positive samples. Hellbenders had a pre-translocation Bd prevalence of 50% (15 of 30), which decreased to 10% (1 of 10) post-translocation. The average zoospore load for positive samples was 73.63 ± 30.82, and no hellbenders showed signs of chytridiomycosis throughout the study. Although we detected no significant effect of translocation on Bd prevalence, we observed a reduction in Bd prevalence post-release. Our results indicate that translocation did not lead to an increase in pathogen prevalence in translocated wild adult hellbenders, suggesting that chytrid did not impact the success of short-term translocations of eastern hellbenders in the Blue Ridge ecoregion.


KEY WORDS: Hellbender · Translocation · Chytridiomycosis · Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis · Amphibian disease


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Cite this article as: Nolan E, Nissen B, Sutton W, Freake M, Hardman R (2021) Translocation does not influence amphibian chytrid fungus prevalence among wild eastern hellbenders Cryptobranchus alleganiensis. Dis Aquat Org 145:145-157. https://doi.org/10.3354/dao03607

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