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Diseases of Aquatic Organisms

    DAO prepress abstract   -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/dao03576

    Ranavirus is widespread in Costa Rica and co-occurs with threatened amphibians

    Steven M. Whitfield, Gilbert Alvarado-Barboza, Juan G. Abarca, Hector Zumbado-Ulate, Randall R. Jimenez, Jacob Kerby

    *Corresponding author:

    ABSTRACT: Amphibians are globally threatened by emerging infectious diseases, and diseases caused by ranaviruses are among the most concerning pathogens to threaten species in the wild. We sampled for ranaviruses in wild amphibians at eight sites in Costa Rica, spanning broad climatic zones and taxonomic associations. Seven of these sites are inhabited by highly threatened amphibian species that persist at low global population size after population declines from amphibian chytridiomycosis. One of the surveyed sites is occupied by an introduced amphibian species, which are relatively rare in Central America but may be an important pathway for long-distance transport of ranaviruses. We detected ranavirus using quantitative polymerase chain reaction in 16.3% of the 243 individuals and among five of our eight sites, but not at the site with introduced species. Infection prevalence varied among species and sites, but not with mean annual temperature or mean annual precipitation. Infection intensity did not vary with species, site, temperature, or precipitation. Our results show that ranavirus infection is spatially widespread in Costa Rica, can infect a broad range of host species, and occurs across climatic zones — though we encountered no mortality or morbidity in our sampled species. Ranavirus is known to cause intermittent mass mortality in amphibian populations, and the threatened species sampled here are likely vulnerable to population impacts from emerging ranavirus. Therefore, we believe the potential impacts of ranavirus to amphibian populations in tropical regions have likely been underestimated, and that ranaviruses should be viewed as a potential major stressor to threatened amphibians in tropical regions.