Returning from the Brink: Rebounding Amphibian Populations in a Pathogen Enzootic Environment

Costa Rica, Panama, Peru

Amphibian declines and disappearances have long captured our attention, but in recent years there have been numerous reports of once “lost” amphibians being rediscovered. Many of these amphibians are from populations or species that are believed to have declined due to Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd).

Populations from groups like Atelopus or stream-breeding Hylidae, that were known to be heavily affected by the Bd epidemic, have now begun to rebound or become more easily detectable in certain areas. Our focal species (Rhinella margaritifera, Atelopus varius, A. limosus, Duellmanohyla uranochroa, Lithobates vibicarius) all come from areas where they were known to have declined and where Bd is present.

Duellmanohyla uranochroa

With this study we hope to increase understanding of how time since decline, infection dynamics, genetics and changing susceptibility play a role in these rebounding populations.   We are using environmental DNA analyses to find additional field sites by screening for genetic material of focal species. Sites are being surveyed to assess the dynamics within rebounding populations and the prevalence of Bd in these regions. These populations will be assessed using restriction enzyme associated DNA sequencing (RADSeq) techniques to improve analyses of the genetic structure of these populations. Finally, Bd susceptibility trials will be conducted to understand rapid adaptation and change in the host-pathogen system.

By increasing our understanding of how these populations have been able to return with Bd still present in the environment we can hopefully aid in the conservation of species still affected by Bd or similar pathogens in other areas.

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Fast Facts

Location
Costa Rica, Panama, Peru

Project Description
Studying populations of amphibians rebounding after Bd related declines. Examining the dynamics of disease in areas where these species are rebounding and the genetics and susceptibility these populations.

Target Species
Rhinella margaritifera
Atelopus limosus
Atelopus varius
Duellmanohyla uranochroa
Lithobates vibicarius
Ptychohyla legleri

Team Members
Alessandro Catenazzi
Twan Leenders
Alexander Shepack

Partner Organizations
Roger Tory Peterson Institute of Natural History
CREA Panama

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