The Effect of Human Impact on Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis prevalence in Taricha torosa

Thursday, 18 December 2014
Vicki Deng, Emigdia Macario and Cameron Tumey, California Academy of Sciences, San Francisco, CA, United States
Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd) is emerging as a major cause of the amphibian extinction. As amphibians serve an important role as indicator species in their ecosystem and play a vital role in the food chain, Bd will not only affect the amphibian population but also the health of the environment. Bd is an aquatic fungus that blocks the porous skin of amphibians which interrupts electrolyte, gas and water transfer. This imbalances the electrolyte system which causes cells and organs to malfunction, therefore killing the amphibian. While frogs are more common for Bd, it is not often found in newts. However, Dr. Vance Vredenburg recently found an outbreak of Bd in Taricha torosa in Marin Headlands, California. This location was used in the research as the sample site with most human impact and was expected to have the highest prevalence according to the proposed hypothesis that more human impact will correspond with a higher prevalence of Bd. Decreasing the level of human impact, Fairfield Osborn Preserve and Galbreath Preserve were picked as the other sample sites. After the samples went through qPCR, all of them came back negative for Bd. These results did not support the hypothesis, however, it contributed data to explaining the dynamics of Bd when combined with Dr. Vance Vredenburg’s data from 2 months earlier. Within the two months, there was a huge difference in the prevalence of Bd as it dropped from 88% to 0%. This shows that Taricha torosa does in fact get Bd. However, it is rarely detected because Bd is fast-acting and has high mortality rates. Therefore, it is least likely for current nonspecific surveys to swab the newts during a short but lethal Bd outbreak.