Helping Frogs Fight a Deadly Fungus

Resistance to Chytridiomycosis in Endangered NSW Frogs

Chytrid is a fungus spreading to even the most remote areas of the world. It is deadly to many amphibians, causing a painful death during metamorphosis.  This project aimed to understand how amphibian resistance works and to potentially develop ways of accelerating adaptation of vulnerable NSW frog species. Experiments were undertaken at Taronga Zoo with zoo-bred Booroolong Frogs (Litoria booroolongensis). Results indicate that infection with the chytrid fungus (Bd) or prophylactic treatment had no effect on resistance to chytrid in individual frogs. In short, there was no evidence for increased protective immunity following infection with the chytrid. The experiments also indicated that most Booroolong Frogs had some sort of innate resistance that might potentially assist in species recovery. The next phase of this research will include monitoring frogs bred and released from Taronga in 2013. The findings of this work may guide the future management of threatened frogs impacted by chytrid fungus. If innate immunity within species can be detected, it will guide the future of captive conservation and reintroduction programs by helping zoos to breed individuals with greater innate immunity without losing overall genetic diversity.

Project Partners

Taronga: Dr Peter Harlow, Mr Michael McFadden
James Cook University: Dr Lee Skerrit, Dr Lee Berger, Prof Rick Speare
Office of Environment and Heritage: Dr David Hunter

Publications

Cashins SD, Grogan LF, McFadden M, Hunter D, Harlow PS, et al. (2013) Prior Infection Does Not Improve Survival against the Amphibian Disease Chytridiomycosis. PLoS ONE 8(2): e56747. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0056747

For more information contact:

Taronga Conservation Science Initiative

Contact: 
Rebecca Spindler, Manager, Research and Conservation
Phone: 
+61 2 9978 4608

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Join with us on this exciting journey by making a donation towards the Taronga Conservation Science Initiative.