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Diseases of Aquatic Organisms

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DAO 92:253-260 (2010)  -  DOI:

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

Seasonality of Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis infection in direct-developing frogs suggests a mechanism for persistence

Ana V. Longo*, Patricia A. Burrowes, Rafael L. Joglar

Department of Biology, University of Puerto Rico, PO Box 23360, San Juan, Puerto Rico 00931-3360

ABSTRACT: Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd), a disease-causing amphibian-specific fungus, is widely distributed in Puerto Rico, but is restricted to elevations above 600 m. The effect of this pathogen in the wild was studied by monitoring Eleutherodactylus coqui and E. portoricensis in 2 upland forests at El Yunque, a site characterized by historic population declines in the presence of chytridiomycosis. We tested a potential synergistic interaction between climate and Bd by measuring prevalence of infection and level of infection per individual sampled (number of zoospores), across the dry and wet seasons for 2 yr (between 2005 and 2007). Infection levels in adult frogs were significantly higher during the dry season in both species studied, suggesting a cyclic pattern of dry/ cool–wet/warm climate-driven synergistic interaction. These results are consistent with ex situ experiments in which E. coqui infected with Bd were more susceptible to chytridiomycosis when subjected to limited water treatments resembling drought. Long-term data on the prevalence of Bd in the populations studied versus intensity of infection in individual frogs provided contradictory information. However, the conflicting nature of these data was essential to understand the status of Bd in the species and geographical area studied. We conclude that in Puerto Rico, Bd is enzootic, and vulnerability of eleutherodactylid frogs to this pathogen is related to seasonal climatic variables. Our data suggest a mechanism by which this disease can persist in tropical frog communities without decimation of its hosts, but that complex interactions during severe droughts may lead to population crashes.

KEY WORDS: Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis · Amphibian declines · Climate–disease synergy · Seasonal patterns · Eleutherodactylus

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Cite this article as: Longo AV, Burrowes PA, Joglar RL (2010) Seasonality of Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis infection in direct-developing frogs suggests a mechanism for persistence. Dis Aquat Org 92:253-260.

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