Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
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Divergent population responses following salamander mass mortalities and declines driven by the emerging pathogen Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans

Jesse Erens

Jesse Erens

Wildlife Health Ghent, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium

[email protected]

Contribution: Conceptualization, Formal analysis, Investigation, Methodology, Visualization, Writing – original draft, Writing – review & editing

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Kathleen Preissler

Kathleen Preissler

Institute of Biology, Leipzig University, Leipzig, Germany

Contribution: Formal analysis, Writing – review & editing

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Jeroen Speybroeck

Jeroen Speybroeck

Research Institute for Nature and Forest (INBO), Brussels, Belgium

Contribution: Data curation

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Wouter Beukema

Wouter Beukema

Wildlife Health Ghent, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium

Reptile, Amphibian & Fish Conservation Netherlands (RAVON), Nijmegen, the Netherlands

Contribution: Methodology

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Annemarieke Spitzen-van der Sluijs

Annemarieke Spitzen-van der Sluijs

Reptile, Amphibian & Fish Conservation Netherlands (RAVON), Nijmegen, the Netherlands

Institute for Water and Wetland Research, Animal Ecology and Physiology, Radboud University, Nijmegen, the Netherlands

Contribution: Data curation

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Tariq Stark

Tariq Stark

Reptile, Amphibian & Fish Conservation Netherlands (RAVON), Nijmegen, the Netherlands

Contribution: Data curation

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Arnaud Laudelout

Arnaud Laudelout

Natagora, Namur, Belgium

Contribution: Resources

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Thierry Kinet

Thierry Kinet

Natagora, Namur, Belgium

Contribution: Resources

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Benedikt R. Schmidt

Benedikt R. Schmidt

Department of Evolutionary Biology and Environmental Studies, University of Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland

Info fauna karch, Neuchâtel, Switzerland

Contribution: Methodology

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An Martel

An Martel

Wildlife Health Ghent, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium

Contribution: Conceptualization, Methodology, Supervision, Writing – review & editing

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Sebastian Steinfartz

Sebastian Steinfartz

Institute of Biology, Leipzig University, Leipzig, Germany

Contribution: Conceptualization, Methodology, Supervision, Writing – review & editing

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Frank Pasmans

Frank Pasmans

Wildlife Health Ghent, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium

Contribution: Conceptualization, Methodology, Supervision, Writing – review & editing

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Published:https://doi.org/10.1098/rspb.2023.0510

Understanding wildlife responses to novel threats is vital in counteracting biodiversity loss. The emerging pathogen Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans (Bsal) causes dramatic declines in European salamander populations, and is considered an imminent threat to global amphibian biodiversity. However, real-life disease outcomes remain largely uncharacterized. We performed a multidisciplinary assessment of the longer-term impacts of Bsal on highly susceptible fire salamander (Salamandra salamandra) populations, by comparing four of the earliest known outbreak sites to uninfected sites. Based on large-scale monitoring efforts, we found population persistence in strongly reduced abundances to over a decade after Bsal invasion, but also the extinction of an initially small-sized population. In turn, we found that host responses varied, and Bsal detection remained low, within surviving populations. Demographic analyses indicated an ongoing scarcity of large reproductive adults with potential for recruitment failure, while spatial comparisons indicated a population remnant persisting within aberrant habitat. Additionally, we detected no early signs of severe genetic deterioration, yet nor of increased host resistance. Beyond offering additional context to Bsal-driven salamander declines, results highlight how the impacts of emerging hypervirulent pathogens can be unpredictable and vary across different levels of biological complexity, and how limited pathogen detectability after population declines may complicate surveillance efforts.

Footnotes

These authors contributed equally to this work.

Electronic supplementary material is available online at https://doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.c.6834913.

References