The amphibian fungal pathogen Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd) has received considerable attention due to its role in amphibian population declines worldwide. Although many amphibian species appear to be affected by Bd, there is little information on species-specific differences in susceptibility to this pathogen. We used a comparative experimental approach to examine Bd susceptibility in 6 amphibian species from the United States. We exposed postmetamorphic animals to Bd for 30 days and monitored mortality, feeding rates, and infection levels. In all species tested, Bd-exposed animals had higher rates of mortality than unexposed (control) animals. However, we found differences in mortality rates among species even though the amount of Bd detected on the different species' bodies did not differ. Of the species tested, southern toads (Anaxyrus terrestris) and wood frogs (Lithobates sylvaticus) had the highest rates of Bd-related mortality. Within species, we detected lower levels of Bd on individuals that survived longer and found that the relationship between body size and infection levels differed among species. Our results indicate that, even under identical conditions, amphibian species differ in susceptibility to Bd. This study represents a step toward identifying and understanding species variation in disease susceptibility, which can be used to optimize conservation strategies.
©2011 Society for Conservation Biology.