Retrospective Survey of Museum Specimens Reveals Historically Widespread Presence of Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis in China
Chytridiomycosis, caused by the chytrid fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd), has been implicated in amphibian population declines worldwide. However, no amphibian declines or extinctions associated with Bd have been reported in Asia. To investigate the history of this pathogen in China, we examined 1,007 museum-preserved amphibian specimens of 80 species collected between 1933 and 2009. Bd was detected in 60 individuals (6.0%), with the earliest case of Bd infection occurring in one specimen of Bufo gargarizans and two Fejervarya limnocharis, all collected in 1933 from Chongqing, southwest China. Although mainly detected in non-threatened native amphibians, Bd was also found in four endangered species. We report the first evidence of Bd for Taiwan and the first detection of Bd in the critically endangered Chinese giant salamander (Andrias davidianus). Bd appears to have been present at a low rate of infection since at least the 1930s in China, and no significant differences in prevalence were detected between decades or provinces, suggesting that a historical steady endemic relationship between Bd and Chinese amphibians has occurred. Our results add new insights on the global emergence of Bd and suggest that this pathogen has been more widely distributed in the last century than previously believed.