Natural disturbance reduces chytridiomycosis

File:Litoria rheocola back.JPG

Loss of canopy cover due to a hurricane lowered chytrid infection in the Endangered common mist frog (Litoria rheocola) of Australia.

A study published in Nature this year found that after a cyclone hit Australia in 2011, the incidence of Bd infection in frogs dropped in areas where canopy had been reduced by the loss of branches and trees. The reduced canopy due to Cyclone Yasi resulted in more sunlight and higher temperatures, making the area less favorable for the growth of Bd, since the amphibian chytrid fungus prefers cooler temperatures (~20˚C). In Panama, Golden frogs (Atelopus zeteki) were found to use basking to eliminate Bd from their skin [*]. Thus, both behavioral adaptations by frogs and changes in habitat can limit growth of chytrid in a natural environment. Does this mean that we should cut down trees to save frogs? The authors suggest that targeted canopy reduction could be used to provide warm areas that might allow populations to survive infection. Personally, I am a little hesitant because dense canopy cover can be important for other species unaffected by chytrid and although higher temperatures and UV exposure are beneficial for clearing infection, they are typically harmful to frogs. Nevertheless, the role that disturbance plays in disease ecology remains an important field of study on the chytrid front.

Featured literature: Roznik et al. 2015. Natural disturbance reduces disease risk in endangered rainforest frog populations. Nature

Frog: 13, Fungus: 19

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