Epizootic to enzootic transition of a fungal disease in tropical Andean frogs: Are surviving species still susceptible?

PLoS One. 2017 Oct 17;12(10):e0186478. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0186478. eCollection 2017.


The fungal pathogen Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd), which causes the disease chytridiomycosis, has been linked to catastrophic amphibian declines throughout the world. Amphibians differ in their vulnerability to chytridiomycosis; some species experience epizootics followed by collapse while others exhibit stable host/pathogen dynamics where most amphibian hosts survive in the presence of Bd (e.g., in the enzootic state). Little is known about the factors that drive the transition between the two disease states within a community, or whether populations of species that survived the initial epizootic are stable, yet this information is essential for conservation and theory. Our study focuses on a diverse Peruvian amphibian community that experienced a Bd-caused collapse. We explore host/Bd dynamics of eight surviving species a decade after the mass extinction by using population level disease metrics and Bd-susceptibility trials. We found that three of the eight species continue to be susceptible to Bd, and that their populations are declining. Only one species is growing in numbers and it was non-susceptible in our trials. Our study suggests that some species remain vulnerable to Bd and exhibit ongoing population declines in enzootic systems where Bd-host dynamics are assumed to be stable.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anura / immunology*
  • Anura / microbiology
  • Chytridiomycota / growth & development
  • Chytridiomycota / pathogenicity*
  • Disease Resistance
  • Disease Susceptibility / immunology*
  • Female
  • Host Specificity
  • Male
  • Mycoses / immunology*
  • Mycoses / microbiology
  • Peru
  • Population Dynamics

Grant support

This work was funded by grants from the Asociación para la Conservación de la Cuenca Amazónica (www.acca.org.pe), the Rufford Small Grants Foundation (www.rufford.org), the Chicago Board of Trade Endangered Species Fund (https://www.czs.org/Chicago-Zoological-Society/Conservation-Leadership/Field-Work/CBOT-Endangered-Species-Fund.aspx), the Fondation Mathey-Dupraz and the Amphibian Specialist Group (A. Catenazzi), the Princeton Environmental Institute (L. Wyman), and the National Science Foundation (V. T. Vredenburg; DEB-11202283, Belmont Forum project NSF 1633948; www.nsf.gov). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.