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Invasive pathogens threaten species recovery programs

Walker, Susan F., Bosch, Jamie, James, Timothy Y., Litvintseva, Anastasia P., Valls, Juan Antonio Oliver, Pina, Samuel, Garcia, Gerardo, Rosa, Ghislaine A., Cunningham, Andrew A., Hole, Sarah, and others. (2008) Invasive pathogens threaten species recovery programs. Current Biology, 18 (18). R853-R854. ISSN 0960-9822. (doi:10.1016/j.cub.2008.07.033) (Access to this publication is currently restricted. You may be able to access a copy if URLs are provided) (KAR id:15309)

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Captive breeding and re-introduction is integral to the recovery of many threatened species [1], but such practices carry an associated risk of introducing exotic and potentially unknown pathogens into naïve settings. Amphibians are facing a mass extinction crisis and an emerging pathogen, Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, described only in 1998, is now recognised as a principal driver of these declines [2]. Debate rages about the role of invasion [2] and [3] versus climate change [4] in determining the distribution of B. dendrobatidis and chytridiomycosis. The severity of the threat from anthropogenic spread is recognized by the recent decision to list chytridiomycosis as a notifiable disease by the OIE (World Organisation for Animal Health) [5]. Case-studies documenting anthropogenic spread are rare, however. Here, we report that native island populations of the IUCN red-listed Mallorcan Midwife Toad Alytes muletensis are infected by B. dendrobatidis and suffering from chytridiomycosis. We trace the source of this infection by screening archived mortalities from a captive-breeding facility that had been used for re-introduction of the species to its native habitat. Our study provides the first strong evidence that the anthropogenic movement of amphibians is spreading B. dendrobatidis; it also provides a salutatory lesson of the need to ensure that breeding-programs are not hot-beds for cross-specific disease transmission, and that species are free of infectious agents prior to re-introduction.

Item Type: Article
DOI/Identification number: 10.1016/j.cub.2008.07.033
Additional information: Editorial material
Subjects: Q Science > Q Science (General)
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Human and Social Sciences > School of Anthropology and Conservation > DICE (Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology)
Funders: Natural Environment Research Council (
Depositing User: Louise Dorman
Date Deposited: 25 Mar 2009 16:35 UTC
Last Modified: 12 Jul 2022 10:39 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

University of Kent Author Information

Griffiths, Richard A..

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