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Wildlife diseases are a serious threat to global biodiversity. The amphibian chytrid fungus (Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, or Bd for short) is one of the most devastating wildlife diseases known. Bd infects the oral discs of tadpoles and the keratinized layers of the skin of juvenile and adult frogs, causing the disease called chytridiomycosis. This disease is capable of causing rapid death in susceptible amphibians.

Bd was identified in Australia in the 1990’s and continues to play a major role in the decline of our native frogs. Bd is not species-specific, meaning that it infects many amphibian species, yet, the way in which it affects individual species varies greatly; with many species suffering rapid population declines, and others seemingly to be coexisting with the fungus, with very little impact on populations.


Swabbing frogs for the amphibian chytrid fungus

Swabbing frogs in the Solomon Islands for the amphibian chytrid fungus (Batrachytrium dendrobatidis).

Image: Jodi Rowley
© Australian Museum

Despite over 50 years of research, there is still so much left unknown about Bd. We don't know if it even occurs in many regions, or if it is capable of causing disease or impacting frog populations. Many species also remain untested for the pathogen, including threatened species!

We are examining species across Australia and other countries by swabbing and running a diagnostic qPCR to test for the presence and intensity of Bd in both wild frogs in the field and historical museum specimens collected decades ago. With this information, we can better inform the conservation management of frogs in Australia, and across the globe.

We also have a strong research interest in other pathogens that are potential threats to amphibian species, including mesomycetozoeans.


Blogs


Publications

  • Le, D.T.T., Hoang, H.D., Rowley, J.J.L. (2017). Preliminary monitoring of amphibian populations at a montane site in Vietnam with the presence of Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis. Herpetological Review, 48(3) 557-559.
  • Gleason, F.H., Rowley, J.J.L., Jessop, C.N., & Lilje, O. (2014). Zoosporic parasites of amphibians. In: Hyde, K.D., Jones, E.B.G. & Pang, KL. Freshwater Fungi and Fungal-Like Organisms. pp 245-262.
  • Gleason, F.H., Chambouvet, A., Sullivan, B.K., Lilje, O., Rowley, J.J.L. (2014). Multiple zoosporic parasites pose a significant threat to amphibian populations. Fungal Ecology. 11: 181–192. abstract
  • Rowley, J. J. L., Gleason, F.H., Andreou, D., Marshall, W., Lilje, O. & Goslan, R. (2013). Impacts of mesomycetozoean parasites on amphibian and freshwater fish populations. Fungal Biology Reviews 27:100-111.abstract
  • Rowley, J. J. L., Hoang, H. D., Le, D. T. T., Dau, V. Q., Neang, T., & Cao, T. T. (2013). Low Prevalence or Apparent Absence of Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis Infection in Amphibians from Sites in Vietnam and Cambodia.Herpetological Review 4: 466-469 full text
  • Rowley, J. J. L. & Alford, R. A. (2013). Hot bodies protect amphibians against chytrid infection in nature. Scientific Reports 3:1515; DOI:10.1038/srep01515. full text
  • Ocock, J.F., Rowley, J. J. L., Penman, T.D., Rayner, T.S. & Kingsford, R.T. (2013). Amphibian Chytrid Prevalence in an Amphibian Community in Arid Australia. Diseases of Aquatic Organisms. 10: 77-81. abstract
  • Swei, A., Rowley, J. J. L., Rodder, D., Diesmos, M. L. L., Diesmos, A. C., Briggs, C. J., Brown, R., Cao T. T., Cheng, T. L., Chong, R. A., Han, B., Hero J.-M., Hoang H. D., Kusrini, M. D., Le, T. T. D., McGuire, J. A., Meegaskumbura, M., Min, M.-S., Mulcahy, D. G., Neang T., Phimmachak, S., Rao, D.-Q., Reeder, N. M., Schoville, S. D., Sivongxay, N., Srei, N., Stock, M., Stuart, B. L., Torres, L. S., Tran, D. T. A., Tunstall, T. S., Vieites, D., Vredenburg, V. T. (2011).Is chytridiomycosis an emerging amphibian disease in Asia? PLoS ONE 6: e23179. full text
  • Rowley, J. J. L. & Alford, R. A. (2009) Factors affecting interspecific variation in susceptibility to disease in amphibians. pp 3053-3066 In Amphibian Biology, Volume 8. Conservation and Ecology. H. Heatwole (ed.), Surrey Beatty and Sons, Chipping Norton, Australia. full text
  • Rowley, J. J. L., Chan, S. K. F., Tang, W.S., Speare, R., Skerratt, L. F., Alford, R. A., Cheung, S., Ho, C. Y., Campbell, R. (2007) Survey for the amphibian chytrid Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis in Hong Kong in native amphibians and in the international amphibian trade. Diseases of Aquatic Organisms. 78: 87-95. abstract
  • Rowley, J. J. L., & Alford, R. A. (2007) Behaviour of Australian rain forest stream frogs may affect the transmission of chytridiomycosis. Diseases of Aquatic Organisms 77: 1-9. full text