Age structure of amphibian populations with endemic chytridiomycosis, across climatic regions with markedly different infection risk

Anna Turner, Geoffrey W. Heard, Andrew Hall, Skye Wassens

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Threatening processes, such as disease, can drive major changes in population
demographics of the host. Chytridiomycosis, caused by the fungal pathogen
Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd), has led to the decline of at least 500 amphibian species across the globe and has been shown to truncate host age structure by lowering adult survival rates. This results in heavy reliance on annual recruitment and the inability to recover in the event of periodic recruitment failure. We used skeletochronology to determine the age structure, growth, and survival rates of populations of an endangered amphibian, Litoria raniformis, with endemic chytridiomycosis, across two climatically disparate regions in south-eastern Australia: semi-arid and temperate. Contrary to predictions, populations in the semi-arid region (in which chytrid prevalence
is substantially lower due to high temperatures) displayed a more truncated age structure than populations in the temperate study regions. Maximum recorded age was only two years in the semi-arid region compared with up to four years in the temperate region. Wetland hydroperiod and average seasonal air temperature were correlated with age, and males had a slightly higher survival rate than females (0.31 for males and 0.27 for females). Despite the previously documented differences in chytrid prevalence between the two climatic regions, water availability and wetland hydroperiods appear the over-riding determinants of the age structure and survival rates of L. raniformis. Targeted management which ensures water availability and improves survival of 1-year-old frogs into their second and third breeding season would reduce the impact of stochastic events on L. raniformis, and this may be true for numerous frog species susceptible to chytridiomycosis.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere9123
Number of pages13
JournalEcology and Evolution
Volume12
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 24 Jul 2022

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