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Diseases of Aquatic Organisms

    DAO prepress abstract   -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/dao03493

    Prevalence of Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis in immature eastern hellbenders Cryptobranchus alleganiensis from North Carolina, USA

    Lauren Diaz*, Obed Hernandez-Gomez, Shem D. Unger, Lori A. Williams, Catherine M. Bodinof Jachowski

    *Corresponding author:

    ABSTRACT: Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd) has been detected in wild hellbender Cryptobranchus alleganiensis populations with rare instances of chytridiomycosis and Bd induced mortality. To date, Bd surveillance in hellbender populations has been disproportionately focused on adult age classes. A lingering question is whether Bd might contribute to hellbender declines through disproportionate negative effects on immature age classes. The objective of this study was to quantify Bd prevalence and load in immature hellbenders in western North Carolina. We conducted field surveys during 2018 and 2019 and collected 88 skin swabs from 84 hellbenders spanning three age classes. Bd was detected on 11% of individuals, including eight larvae and one juvenile. We did not detect symptoms of chytridiomycosis or a decline in body condition in Bd positive hellbenders. Load varied from approximately 1-153 zoospore equivalents for the nine Bd positive hellbenders and was not associated with size class of the individual. While hellbenders appeared to be abundant in each survey reach, more work is needed to determine whether Bd may increase vulnerability of immature hellbenders to anthropogenic stressors.