Seasonal ecology and behavior of an endangered rainforest frog (Litoria rheocola) threatened by disease

Roznik, Elizabeth A., and Alford, Ross A. (2015) Seasonal ecology and behavior of an endangered rainforest frog (Litoria rheocola) threatened by disease. PLoS ONE, 10 (5). e0127851.

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One of the most devastating wildlife diseases ever recorded is chytridiomycosis, a recently emerged amphibian disease that is caused by the chytrid fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis. Understanding, predicting, and managing the impacts of chytridiomycosis on any amphibian species will require detailed information on its ecology and behavior because this pathogen is transmitted by contact with water or other individuals, and pathogen growth rates are thermally sensitive. The common mistfrog (Litoria rheocola) is an endangered tropical rainforest frog that has declined due to chytridiomycosis. We tracked L. rheocola during the winter (cool/dry) and summer (warm/wet) seasons at a low- and high-elevation site. We found that seasonal differences in environmental temperatures and frog behavior should render this species most vulnerable to B. dendrobatidis during cooler months and at higher elevations, which matches observed patterns of infection prevalence in this species. During winter, frogs moved shorter distances than during summer, and they spent less time in vegetation and more time in the stream, which should increase exposure to aquatic B. dendrobatidis zoospores. At a low-elevation site (40 m ASL), estimated body temperatures were within the optimal range for B. dendrobatidis growth (15-25°C) most of the time during winter, but they reached temperatures above this threshold frequently in summer. At a higher elevation (750 m ASL), estimated body temperatures were within the range most favorable for B. dendrobatidis year-round, and did not exceed 25°C, even during summer. Our study provides the first detailed information on the ecology and behavior of L. rheocola and suggests ecological mechanisms for infection dynamics that have been observed in this endangered species.

Item ID: 42048
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1932-6203
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© 2015 Roznik, Alford. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited

Funders: Australian Research Council (ARC), Australasian Society for the Study of Animal Behaviour, James Cook University (JCU)
Projects and Grants: ARC DP0986537 and DP130101635
Date Deposited: 08 Dec 2015 17:41
FoR Codes: 06 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 0602 Ecology > 060201 Behavioural Ecology @ 100%
SEO Codes: 97 EXPANDING KNOWLEDGE > 970106 Expanding Knowledge in the Biological Sciences @ 100%
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