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Diseases of Aquatic Organisms

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DAO 92:209-216 (2010)  -  DOI:

Contribution to the DAO Special 'Chytridiomycosis: An emerging disease'

Presence of the amphibian chytrid fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis in threatened corroboree frog populations in the Australian Alps

David A. Hunter1, 2,*, Rick Speare3, Gerry Marantelli4, Diana Mendez3, Rod Pietsch1, Will Osborne2

1NSW Department of Environment, Climate Change and Water, PO Box 733, Queanbeyan, New South Wales 2620, Australia
2Institute for Applied Ecology, University of Canberra, ACT 2601, Australia
3Amphibian Disease Ecology Group, School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, James Cook University, Townsville, Queensland 4811, Australia
4Amphibian Research Centre, PO Box 959, Merlynston, Victoria 3058, Australia

ABSTRACT: Since the early 1980s, the southern corroboree frog Pseudophryne corroboree and northern corroboree frog P. pengilleyi have been in a state of decline from their sub-alpine and high montane bog environments on the southern tablelands of New South Wales, Australia. To date, there has been no adequate explanation as to what is causing the decline of these species. We investigated the possibility that a pathogen associated with other recent frog declines in Australia, the amphibian chytrid fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, may have been implicated in the decline of the corroboree frogs. We used histology of toe material and real-time PCR of skin swabs to investigate the presence and infection rates with B. dendrobatidis in historic and extant populations of both corroboree frog species. Using histology, we did not detect any B. dendrobatidis infections in corroboree frog populations prior to their decline. However, using the same technique, high rates of infection were observed in populations of both species after the onset of substantial population declines. The real-time PCR screening of skin swabs identified high overall infection rates in extant populations of P. corroboree (between 44 and 59%), while significantly lower rates of infection were observed in low-altitude P. pengilleyi populations (14%). These results suggest that the initial and continued decline of the corroboree frogs may well be attributed to the emergence of B. dendrobatidis in populations of these species.

KEY WORDS: Amphibian declines · Corroboree frog · Amphibian chytrid fungus

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Cite this article as: Hunter DA, Speare R, Marantelli G, Mendez D, Pietsch R, Osborne W (2010) Presence of the amphibian chytrid fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis in threatened corroboree frog populations in the Australian Alps. Dis Aquat Org 92:209-216.

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