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Occurrence of a Pathogenic Fungus in Captive Arizona Amphibians

Description

Amphibians have been experiencing a worldwide decline that is in part caused by an infectious disease, chytridiomycosis, specific to frogs and salamanders. Globally many species have declined or gone extinct

Amphibians have been experiencing a worldwide decline that is in part caused by an infectious disease, chytridiomycosis, specific to frogs and salamanders. Globally many species have declined or gone extinct because of the pathogenic fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, also known as the amphibian chytrid or Bd. By the time Bd was discovered it was too late to stop the spread and it has now been found on almost every continent. The trade of captive amphibians, used as pets, bait, and educational animals provides an opportunity to spread Bd. Because some amphibians can carry Bd without experiencing symptoms, it is possible for even healthy looking amphibians to spread the amphibian chytrid if they are moved from one location to another. Recently, a new species Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans (Bsal) was found on salamanders. Bsal was identified before it reached the United States, prompting concern regarding its spread and a call for regulation regarding the trade of captive amphibians. There are some regulations in place controlling the trade of amphibians, but they are insufficient to stop the spread of amphibian chytrid in captive populations. A 2016 law prohibits the importation of 201 salamander species. However, there is no central organization to sample or certify if amphibians are free from Bd or Bsal. Although some stores say they test for these pathogens the tests are unregulated and not reported to any central body. If the captive amphibian trade is to go disease free, there would need to be a significant push to coordinate testing efforts. To estimate Bd's prevalence in Arizona captive amphibian populations, I contacted pet stores, bait stores, and sanctuary or educational organizations to ask if I could sample their amphibian collections. My research built on the 2008 work of Angela Picco, who sampled for the amphibian chytrid in Arizona bait shops. I found that amphibian owners were often hesitant and unwilling to participate in this research opportunity. There are multiple reasons for this hesitancy including a fear of increased regulation, the potential for reporting to a government agency (USDA), or the eventual cessation of amphibian trade. The lack of willing participants suggests there may be difficulties in coordinating future sampling efforts for Bd and Bsal.

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Date Created
  • 2018-05

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Phenotypic Plasticity and Early Life Cycle Development of the Chytrid Fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis

Description

The amphibian chytrid fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd) has captured human attention because it is a pathogen that has contributed to global amphibian declines. Despite increased research, much is still unknown

The amphibian chytrid fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd) has captured human attention because it is a pathogen that has contributed to global amphibian declines. Despite increased research, much is still unknown about how it develops. For example, the fact that Bd exhibits phenotypic plasticity during development was only recently identified. In this thesis, the causes of phenotypic plasticity in Bd are tested by exposing the fungus to different substrates, including powdered frog skin and keratin, which seems to play an important role in the fungus's colonization of amphibian epidermis. A novel swelling structure emerging from Bd germlings developed when exposed to keratin and frog skin. This swelling has not been observed in Bd grown in laboratory cultures before, and it is possible that it is analogous to the germ tube Bd develops in vivo. Growth of the swelling suggests that keratin plays a role in the phenotypic plasticity expressed by Bd.

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Date Created
  • 2016-05

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Analysis of Global Variance of the Thermal Maxima of an Amphibian Pathogen

Description

Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd), the amphibian chytrid fungus causing chytridiomycosis, is the cause of massive amphibian die-offs. As with any host-pathogen relationship, it is paramount to understand the growth and reproduction

Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd), the amphibian chytrid fungus causing chytridiomycosis, is the cause of massive amphibian die-offs. As with any host-pathogen relationship, it is paramount to understand the growth and reproduction of the pathogen that causes an infectious disease outbreak. The life-cycle of the pathogen, Bd, is strongly influenced by temperature; however, previous research has focused on Bd isolated from limited geographic ranges, and may not be representative of Bd on a global scale. My research examines the relationship between Bd and temperature on the global level to determine the actual thermal maximum of Bd. Six isolates of Bd, from three continents, were incubated at a temperature within the thermal range (21°C) and a temperature higher than the optimal thermal range (27°C). Temperature affected the growth and zoosporangium size of all six isolates of Bd. All six isolates had proliferative growth at 21°C, but at 27°C the amount and quality of growth varied per isolate. My results demonstrate that each Bd isolate has a different response to temperature, and the thermal maximum for growth varies with each isolate. Further understanding of the difference in isolate response to temperature can lead to a better understanding of Bd pathogen dynamics, as well as allow us the ability to identify susceptible hosts and environments before an outbreak.

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Date Created
  • 2016-12