Non-declining amphibians can be important reservoir hosts for amphibian chytrid fungus

Brannelly, L.A., Webb, R.J., Hunter, D.A., Clemann, N., Howard, K., Skerratt, L.F., Berger, L., and Scheele, B.C. (2018) Non-declining amphibians can be important reservoir hosts for amphibian chytrid fungus. Animal Conservation, 21 (2). pp. 91-101.

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Amphibian chytridiomycosis, caused by infection with Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd), is the most devastating vertebrate disease on record. Reservoir hosts are likely to be important in the Bd-amphibian system because many amphibian species can carry infections without experiencing mortality. However, while a variety of reservoirs have been proposed, few have been empirically demonstrated to act as competent reservoir hosts. In this study, we investigate whether the common eastern froglet,Crinia signifera , a non-declining species that is widespread in eastern Australia, is a reservoir host for Bd infection. We conducted a long-term,large-scale field survey to investigate disease dynamics in C. signifera at sites where four sympatric, threatened anuran species have severely declined. We also monitored Bd-infected C. signifera in the laboratory to determine susceptibility and survivorship. Finally, we assessed population age structure to investigate disease impact in the wild. We found that C. signifera is a competent reservoir host, maintaining high prevalence and infection intensities in the wild and in the laboratory, with no signs of sub-lethal effects or clinical disease. In the wild, the modal age is 4 years with individuals living up to 6 years, indicating that adults can survive across multiple years despite high infection prevalence and intensity. The occurrence of C. signifera at sites with remnant populations of threatened species likely contributes to ongoing disease impact in declining species decades after the arrival of Bd. The presence of C. signifera at sites where threatened species have become extinct inhibits effective reintroductions, and we recommend avoiding sites with high reservoir host abundance when planning reintroductions.

Item ID: 51638
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1469-1795
Keywords: Australia, chytridiomycosis, emerging infectious disease, reservoir host, wildlife disease, amphibians, Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis
Funders: Australian Research Council (ARC), New South Wales Office of Environment and Heritage, New South Wales Department of Environment and Clilmate Change, Victoria Department of Sustainability and Environment, Victoria Department of Environment and Primary Industries, Parks Victoria, Taronga Conservation Science Initiative
Projects and Grants: ARC FT100100375, ARC LP110200240, ARC DP120100811
Date Deposited: 24 Nov 2017 03:03
FoR Codes: 30 AGRICULTURAL, VETERINARY AND FOOD SCIENCES > 3009 Veterinary sciences > 300905 Veterinary epidemiology @ 60%
41 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 4102 Ecological applications > 410202 Biosecurity science and invasive species ecology @ 40%
SEO Codes: 96 ENVIRONMENT > 9604 Control of Pests, Diseases and Exotic Species > 960409 Control of Pests, Diseases and Exotic Species in Mountain and High Country Environments @ 100%
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