Date: 25 Jun 2014

Introduction of Ranavirus to Isolated Wood Frog Populations Could Cause Local Extinction

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Abstract

Amphibian declines and extinction have been attributed to many causes, including disease such as chytridiomycosis. Other pathogens may also contribute to declines, with ranavirus as the most likely candidate given reoccurring die-offs observed in the wild. We were interested in whether it is possible for ranavirus to cause extinction of a local, closed population of amphibians. We used susceptibility data from experimental challenges on different life stages combined with estimates of demographic parameters from a natural population to predict the likelihood of extinction using a stage-structured population model for wood frogs (Lithobates sylvaticus). Extinction was most likely when the larval or metamorph stage was exposed under frequent intervals in smaller populations. Extinction never occurred when only the egg stage was exposed to ranavirus. Under the worst-case scenario, extinction could occur in as quickly as 5 years with exposure every year and 25–44 years with exposure every 2 years. In natural wood frog populations, die-offs typically occur in the larval stage and can reoccur in subsequent years, indicating that our simulations represent possible scenarios. Additionally, wood frog populations are particularly sensitive to changes in survival during the pre-metamorphic stages when ranavirus tends to be most pathogenic. Our results suggest that ranavirus could contribute to amphibian species declines, especially for species that are very susceptible to ranavirus with closed populations. We recommend that ranavirus be considered in risk analyses for amphibian species.