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Occurrence of a Pathogenic Fungus in Captive Arizona Amphibians

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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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  • 2018-05