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Divergent population responses following salamander mass mortalities and declines driven by the emerging pathogen Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans
Erens, J.; Preissler, K.; Speybroeck, J.; Beukema, W.; Spitzen-van der Sluijs, A.; Stark, T.; Laudelout, A.; Kinet, T.; Schmidt, B.R.; Martel, A.; Steinfartz, S.; Pasmans, F. (2023). Divergent population responses following salamander mass mortalities and declines driven by the emerging pathogen Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans. Proc. - Royal Soc., Biol. Sci. 290(2007): 20230510.
In: Proceedings of the Royal Society of London. Series B. The Royal Society: London. ISSN 0962-8452; e-ISSN 1471-2954, more
Peer reviewed article  

Available in  Authors 

Author keywords
    amphibian, chytridiomycosis, impact, population persistence, host extinction, survival

Authors  Top 
  • Erens, J.
  • Preissler, K.
  • Speybroeck, J., more
  • Beukema, W.
  • Spitzen-van der Sluijs, A.
  • Stark, T.
  • Laudelout, A.
  • Kinet, T.
  • Schmidt, B.R.
  • Martel, A., more
  • Steinfartz, S.
  • Pasmans, F.

    Understanding wildlife responses to novel threats is vital in counteracting biodiversity loss. The emerging pathogen Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans (Bsal) causes dramatic declines in European salamander populations, and is considered an imminent threat to global amphibian biodiversity. However, real-life disease outcomes remain largely uncharacterized. We performed a multidisciplinary assessment of the longer-term impacts of Bsal on highly susceptible fire salamander (Salamandra salamandra) populations, by comparing four of the earliest known outbreak sites to uninfected sites. Based on large-scale monitoring efforts, we found population persistence in strongly reduced abundances to over a decade after Bsal invasion, but also the extinction of an initially small-sized population. In turn, we found that host responses varied, and Bsal detection remained low, within surviving populations. Demographic analyses indicated an ongoing scarcity of large reproductive adults with potential for recruitment failure, while spatial comparisons indicated a population remnant persisting within aberrant habitat. Additionally, we detected no early signs of severe genetic deterioration, yet nor of increased host resistance. Beyond offering additional context to Bsal-driven salamander declines, results highlight how the impacts of emerging hypervirulent pathogens can be unpredictable and vary across different levels of biological complexity, and how limited pathogen detectability after population declines may complicate surveillance efforts.

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