, Volume 11, Issue 4, pp 581–592 | Cite as

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

  • Julia E. EarlEmail author
  • Matthew J. Gray
Original Contribution


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.


amphibian declines carrying capacity closed populations iridoviridae Lithobates sylvaticus matrix model 



This work was conducted while a Postdoctoral Fellow (JEE) at the National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis, an Institute sponsored by the National Science Foundation, the US Department of Homeland Security, and the US Department of Agriculture through NSF Award #EF-0832858, with additional support from The University of Tennessee-Knoxville and the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture. We thank N. Haislip and J. Hoverman for performing the laboratory experiments and sharing these data for our simulations.


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© International Association for Ecology and Health 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.National Institute for Mathematical and Biological SynthesisUniversity of TennesseeKnoxvilleUSA
  2. 2.Center for Wildlife Health, Department of Forestry, Wildlife and FisheriesUniversity of TennesseeKnoxvilleUSA

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