The chytrid fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis was originally reported in wild frog populations in Panama and Australia, and from captive frogs in the U.S. National Zoological Park (Washington, DC). This recently described fungus affects the keratinized epidermis of amphibians and has been implicated as a causative factor in the declines of frog populations. We report here the presence of B. dendrobatidis in larval and recently metamorphosed mountain yellow-legged frogs (Rana muscosa) in or near the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California, an area where declines have been documented in all five species of native anurans. Forty-one percent (158 of 387) of larval R. muscosa examined in the field with a hand lens and 18% (14 of 79) of preserved larvae had abnormalities of the oral disc. Twenty-eight larvae were collected from 10 sites where tadpoles had been observed with missing or abnormally keratinized mouthparts, and 24 of these were examined for infection. Sixty-seven percent (16 of 24) of these tadpoles were infected with B. dendrobatidis. Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis was cultured from both tadpoles and recent metamorphs from one of these sites. Tadpoles with mouthpart abnormalities or confirmed chytrid fungus infections were collected at 23 sites spanning a distance of > 440 km and an elevational range from 1658-3550 m. Life-history traits of R. muscosa may make this species particularly susceptible to infection by Batrachochytrium. We recommend that biologists examine tadpoles for oral disc abnormalities as a preliminary indication of chytridiomycosis. Further, we believe that biologists should take precautions to prevent spreading this and other amphibian diseases from one site to another.
Additional publication details
Oral chytridiomycosis in the mountain yellow-legged frog (Rana muscosa)