Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis and the Decline and Survival of the Relict Leopard Frog

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Epizootic disease caused by the fungal pathogen Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd) is a major driver of amphibian declines, yet many amphibians declined before the pathogen was described. The Relict Leopard Frog, Rana onca (=Lithobates onca), was nearly extinct, with the exception of populations within a few geothermal springs. Growth of Bd, however, is limited by high water temperature, and geothermal springs may have provided refuge during outbreaks of chytridiomycosis. We conducted field surveys and laboratory experiments to assess the susceptibility of R. onca to Bd. In the field, we found Bd at one of the two areas where remnant populations of R. onca still occur, but not in the other. In the laboratory, we infected juvenile frogs from these two areas with two hypervirulent Bd isolates associated with declines in other ranid species. In our experiments, these Bd isolates did not affect survivorship of R. onca and most infections (64%) were cleared by the end of the experiments. We propose that R. onca either has inherent resistance to Bd or has recently evolved such resistance. These results may be important for conservation efforts aimed at establishing new populations of R. onca across a landscape where Bd exists. Resistance, however, varies among life stages, and we also did not assess Bd from the local environment. We caution that the resistance we observed for young frogs under laboratory conditions may not translate to the situation for R. onca in the wild. © 2017, International Association for Ecology and Health.



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