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Diseases of Aquatic Organisms

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DAO 80:85-94 (2008)  -  DOI:

Survey protocol for detecting chytridiomycosis in all Australian frog populations

Lee F. Skerratt1,*, Lee Berger1, Harry B. Hines2, Keith R. McDonald3, Diana Mendez1, Richard Speare1

1Amphibian Disease Ecology Group, School of Public Health, Tropical Medicine and Rehabilitation Sciences, James Cook University, Townsville, Queensland 4811, Australia
2Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service, PO Box 64, Bellbowrie, Queensland 4070, Australia
3Amphibian Disease Ecology Group, Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service, PO Box 975, Atherton, Queensland 4883, Australia

ABSTRACT: Spread of the amphibian chytrid fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd) has caused the decline and extinction of frogs, but the distribution of Bd is not completely known. This information is crucial to implementing appropriate quarantine strategies, preparing for outbreaks of chytridiomycosis due to introduction of Bd, and for directing conservation actions towards affected species. This survey protocol provides a simple and standard method for sampling all frog populations in Australia to maximise the chances of detecting Bd. In order to structure and prioritise the protocol, areas are divided by bioregion and frog species are allocated depending on the water bodies they utilize into 3 groups representing different levels of risk of exposure to Bd. Sixty individuals per population need to be tested to achieve 95% certainty of detecting 1 positive frog, based on the minimum apparent prevalence of ≥5% in infected Australian frog populations and using a quantitative real-time TaqMan PCR test. The appropriate season to sample varies among bioregions and will ideally incorporate temperatures favourable for chytridiomycosis (e.g. maximum air temperatures generally <27°C). Opportunistic collection and testing of sick frogs and tadpoles with abnormal mouthparts should also be done to increase the probability of detecting Bd. The survey priorities in order are (1) threatened species that may have been exposed to Bd, (2) bioregions surrounding infected bioregions/ecological groups, and (3) species of frogs of unknown infection status in infected bioregions. Within these priority groups, sampling should first target ecological groups and species likely to be exposed to Bd, such as those associated with permanent water, and areas within bioregions that have high risk for Bd as indicated by climatic modelling. This protocol can be adapted for use in other countries and a standard protocol will enable comparison among amphibian populations globally.

KEY WORDS: Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis · Mapping · Chytrid fungus · Disease · Decline · Amphibian

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Cite this article as: Skerratt LF, Berger L, Hines HB, McDonald KR, Mendez D, Speare R (2008) Survey protocol for detecting chytridiomycosis in all Australian frog populations. Dis Aquat Org 80:85-94.

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