Chytrid fungus infections in laboratory and introduced Xenopus laevis populations: assessing the risks for U.K. native amphibians



Tinsley RC, Coxhead PG, Stott LC, Tinsley MC, Piccinni MZ & Guille MJ (2015) Chytrid fungus infections in laboratory and introduced Xenopus laevis populations: assessing the risks for U.K. native amphibians. Biological Conservation, 184, pp. 380-388.

The chytrid fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd) is notorious amongst current conservation biology challenges, responsible for mass mortality and extinction of amphibian species. World trade in amphibians is implicated in global dissemination. Exports of South African Xenopus laevis have led to establishment of this invasive species on four continents. Bd naturally infects this host in Africa and now occurs in several introduced populations. However, no previous studies have investigated transfer of infection into co-occurring native amphibian faunas. A survey of 27 U.K. institutions maintaining X. laevis for research showed that most laboratories have low-level infection, a risk for native species if animals are released into the wild. RT-PCR assays showed Bd in two introduced U.K. populations of X. laevis, in Wales and Lincolnshire. Laboratory and field studies demonstrated that infection levels increase with stress, especially low temperature. In the U.K., native amphibians may be exposed to intense transmission in spring when they enter ponds to spawn alongside X. laevis that have cold-elevated Bd infections. Exposure to cross-infection has probably been recurrent since the introduction of X. laevis, >20years in Lincolnshire and 50years in Wales. These sites provide an important test for assessing the impact of X. laevis on Bd spread. However, RT-PCR assays on 174 native amphibians (Bufo, Rana, Lissotriton and Triturus spp.), sympatric with the Bd-infected introduced populations, showed no foci of self-sustaining Bd transmission associated with X. laevis. The abundance of these native amphibians suggested no significant negative population-level effect after the decades of co-occurrence.

African clawed frog; Chytrid fungus (Bd); Emerging infectious disease (EID); Global spread of pathogens; Invasive species; Threats to native species

Biological Conservation: Volume 184

Publication date30/04/2015
Publication date online04/03/2015
Date accepted by journal31/01/2015

People (1)


Professor Matthew Tinsley

Professor Matthew Tinsley

Professor, Biological and Environmental Sciences

Files (1)