The global spread of the fungal pathogen Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd) has led to widespread extirpation of amphibian populations. During an intervention aimed at stabilizing at-risk populations, we treated wild-caught Cascades frogs Rana cascadae with the antifungal drug itraconazole. In fall 2012, we collected 60 recently metamorphosed R. cascadae from 1 of the 11 remnant populations in the Cascades Mountains (CA, USA). Of these, 30 randomly selected frogs were treated with itraconazole and the other 30 frogs served as experimental controls; all were released at the capture site. Bd prevalence was low at the time of treatment and did not differ between treated frogs and controls immediately following treatment. Following release, Bd prevalence gradually increased in controls but not in treated frogs, with noticeable (but still non-significant) differences 3 wk after treatment (27% [4/15] vs. 0% [0/13]) and strong differences 5 wk after treatment (67% [8/12] vs. 13% [1/8]). We did not detect any differences in Bd prevalence and load between experimental controls and untreated wild frogs during this time period. In spring 2013, we recaptured 7 treated frogs but none of the experimental control frogs, suggesting that over-winter survival was higher for treated frogs. The itraconazole treatment did appear to reduce growth rates: treated frogs weighed 22% less than control frogs 3 wk after treatment (0.7 vs. 0.9 g) and were 9% shorter than control frogs 5 wk after treatment (18.4 vs. 20.2 mm). However, for critically small populations, increased survival of the most at-risk life stage could prevent or delay extinction. Our results show that itraconazole treatment can be effective against Bd infection in wild amphibians, and therefore the beneficial effects on survivorship may outweigh the detrimental effects on growth.
- Rana cascadae
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Aquatic Science
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics