A tale of two lineages: unexpected, long-term persistence of the amphibian-killing fungus in Brazil

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Abstract

For the past 17 years, scientists have been compiling a list of amphibian species susceptible to infection by the amphibian-killing chytrid fungus, Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd), all over the world, with >500 species infected on every continent except Antarctica (Olson et al. 2013). Where Bd has been found, the impacts on amphibians has been one of two types: either Bd arrives into a naïve amphibian population followed by a mass die-off and population declines (e.g. Lips et al. 2006), or Bd is present at some moderate prevalence, usually infecting many species but at apparently nonlethal intensities for a long time. In this issue of Molecular Ecology, Rodriguez et al. (2014) discover that the Atlantic Coastal Forest of Brazil is home to two Bd lineages: the Global Pandemic Lineage (Bd-GPL) – the strain responsible for mass die-offs and population declines – and a lineage endemic to Brazil (Bd-Bz). Even more surprising was that both lineages have been present in this area for the past 100 years, making these the oldest records of Bd infecting amphibians. The team also described a moderate but steady prevalence of ~20% across all sampled anuran families for over 100 years, indicating that Brazil has been in an enzootic disease state for over a century. Most amphibians were infected with Bd-GPL, suggesting this lineage may be a better competitor than Bd-Bz or may be replacing the Bd-Bz lineage. Rodriguez et al. (2014) also detected likely hybridization of the two Bd lineages, as originally described by Schloegel et al. (2012).

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