Conservation Biology of Xenopus Longipes

Thursday, 18 December 2014
Rachel Quock1,2, David C Blackburn2 and Sonia Ghose2, (1)Student Science Fellows, San Francisco, CA, United States, (2)California Academy of Sciences, Department of Vertebrate Zoology and Anthropology, San Francisco, CA, United States
For the past 9 months, we have been studying the presence of disease and genetic variation in the Cameroonian species Xenopus longipes, found only in a lake on Mount Oku. During research trips to this lake (Lake Oku) over the past decade, mortalities of this species have been observed, and in addition there may be evidence of declines in other frog species in these mountains. It is well understood that in many parts of the world, amphibians are currently declining due to disease caused by the fungal pathogen Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd), and possibly also by the iridovirus ranavirus. A previous study suggested that ranavirus could be found in Lake Oku, and also that Bd may be present. Using 25 X. longipes liver samples collected during the summer of 2013 and 10 samples collected during the summer of 2011, we screened for Ranavirus through PCR amplification and sequencing, and screened for Bd in our 25 samples from 2013 through quantitative PCR. We also PCR amplified and sequenced 1950bp of the X. longipes 16S gene to look for genetic variation. We did not find ranavirus present on these frogs, and we found low prevalence (4%) of Bd. Through our analysis of 16S data, we found low genetic variation among the X. longipes, with a maximum divergence of 0.37% observed between any two individuals. Time is of the essence and it is crucial that the causes of these die offs be identified. While there have been observed mortalities of X. longipes since 2006, and this species remains on the Critically Endangered List, the cause of these mortalities is still unknown. If and when a cause can be identified, it would be monumental for this species’ population and can hopefully be used to preserve and save these frogs.