The Decline of the Sharp-Snouted Day Frog (Taudactylus acutirostris): The First Documented Case of Extinction by Infection in a Free-Ranging Wildlife Species?
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Infectious diseases are increasingly recognized as the cause of mass mortality events, population declines, and the local extirpation of wildlife species. In a number of cases, it has been hypothesized that pathogens have caused species extinctions in wildlife. However, there is only one definitively proven case of extinction by infection, and this was in a remnant captive population of a Polynesian tree snail. In this article, we review the potential involvement of infectious disease in the recent extinction of the sharp-snouted day frog Taudactylus acutirostris. Our review of available evidence suggests that a virulent pathogen of amphibians, Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, caused a rapid, catastrophic decline of this species, from which it did not recover. We propose that this is the first case of extinction by infection of a free-ranging wildlife species where disease acted as both the proximate and ultimate cause of extinction. This highlights a probable underreporting of infectious disease as a cause of biodiversity loss historically and currently.
Keywordsamphibian decline conservation medicine chytridiomycosis Batrachochytrium Taudactylus extinction
This work was funded in part by core funding to the Consortium for Conservation Medicine from the V. Kann Rasmussen Foundation. We thank Astrid Kann Rasmussen for her insightful comments. Lisa Schloegel is supported by an National Science Foundation IRCEB award (DEB-02133851), The New York Community Trust and funding from the Eppley Foundation.
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