Conservation Biology: Effects of Amphibian Chytrid Fungus on Individual Survival Probability in Wild Boreal Toads

Abstract: Chytridiomycosis is linked to the worldwide decline of amphibians, yet little is known about the demographic effects of the disease.

We collected capture–recapture data on three populations of boreal toads (Bufo boreas [Bufo = Anaxyrus]) in the Rocky Mountains (U.S.A.). Two of the populations were infected with chytridiomycosis and one was not.

We examined the effect of the presence of amphibian chytrid fungus (Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis [Bd]; the agent of chytridiomycosis) on survival probability and population growth rate. Toads that were infected with Bd had lower average annual survival probability than uninfected individuals at sites where Bd was detected, which suggests chytridiomycosis may reduce survival by 31–42% in wild boreal toads.

Toads that were negative for Bd at infected sites had survival probabilities comparable to toads at the uninfected site. Evidence that environmental covariates (particularly cold temperatures during the breeding season) influenced toad survival was weak. The number of individuals in diseased populations declined by 5–7%/year over the 6 years of the study, whereas the uninfected population had comparatively stable population growth.

Our data suggest that the presence of Bd in these toad populations is not causing rapid population declines. Rather, chytridiomycosis appears to be functioning as a low-level, chronic disease whereby some infected individuals survive but the overall population effects are still negative. Our results show that some amphibian populations may be coexisting with Bd and highlight the importance of quantitative assessments of survival in diseased animal populations.

Link: Conservation Biology

How to Cite

PILLIOD, D. S., MUTHS, E., SCHERER, R. D., BARTELT, P. E., CORN, P. S., HOSSACK, B. R., LAMBERT, B. A., MCCAFFERY, R. and GAUGHAN, C. (2010), Effects of Amphibian Chytrid Fungus on Individual Survival Probability in Wild Boreal Toads. Conservation Biology, 24: 1259–1267. doi: 10.1111/j.1523-1739.2010.01506.x


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