Murray State University

Poster Title

Spreading the Disease: Using Tiger Salamanders as Sentinels of Chytrid Fungus for Boreal Toad Restoration

Institution

Murray State University

Abstract

The chytrid fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis has been linked to mass mortalities of a variety of amphibian species world-wide. B. dendrobatidis affects the dermal surface of an individual and uses water to disburse motile flagellate zoospores, making amphibians extremely susceptible to infection. Unfortunately this fungal disease appears to be one of the few pathogens that continuously emerges in what would be called “pristine” ecosystems, and is therefore a critical current issue in conservation biology. Boreal Toads (Anaxyrus boreas), once very common throughout the Rocky Mountains, have been suffering population declines and local extinction due to chytrid, and are classified by the IUCN Red List as near threatened and specifically endangered in Colorado. It is therefore important to survey for potential restoration areas to determine chytrid-free sites for boreal toad reintroduction. The tiger salamander resists infection of B. dendrobatidis, but can still carry the fungus making them both a pathogenic reservoir species as well as a sentinel for the presence of chytrid. In this study, tiger salamanders were swabbed for the presence of B.dendrobatidis in various aquatic habitats located in the Grand Mesa-Uncompahgre-Gunnison (GMUG) National Forests in Colorado, in order to determine potential chytrid-free restoration areas for the boreal toad. The samples were analyzed for the presence of B.dendrobatidis zoospores, and reported to the Colorado Department of Wildlife to contribute to the chytrid distribution data of the region. This research aided boreal toad restoration and also served as a contribution to the overall understanding of the range and proliferation of this enigmatic fungus for scientists attempting to combat this global conservation issue.

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Spreading the Disease: Using Tiger Salamanders as Sentinels of Chytrid Fungus for Boreal Toad Restoration

The chytrid fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis has been linked to mass mortalities of a variety of amphibian species world-wide. B. dendrobatidis affects the dermal surface of an individual and uses water to disburse motile flagellate zoospores, making amphibians extremely susceptible to infection. Unfortunately this fungal disease appears to be one of the few pathogens that continuously emerges in what would be called “pristine” ecosystems, and is therefore a critical current issue in conservation biology. Boreal Toads (Anaxyrus boreas), once very common throughout the Rocky Mountains, have been suffering population declines and local extinction due to chytrid, and are classified by the IUCN Red List as near threatened and specifically endangered in Colorado. It is therefore important to survey for potential restoration areas to determine chytrid-free sites for boreal toad reintroduction. The tiger salamander resists infection of B. dendrobatidis, but can still carry the fungus making them both a pathogenic reservoir species as well as a sentinel for the presence of chytrid. In this study, tiger salamanders were swabbed for the presence of B.dendrobatidis in various aquatic habitats located in the Grand Mesa-Uncompahgre-Gunnison (GMUG) National Forests in Colorado, in order to determine potential chytrid-free restoration areas for the boreal toad. The samples were analyzed for the presence of B.dendrobatidis zoospores, and reported to the Colorado Department of Wildlife to contribute to the chytrid distribution data of the region. This research aided boreal toad restoration and also served as a contribution to the overall understanding of the range and proliferation of this enigmatic fungus for scientists attempting to combat this global conservation issue.