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Viral suspect for amphibian decline traced to human spread through bait

that they are being so broadly effected by emerging diseases is telling us that emerging diseases are having a major effect on the biosphere," said Collins.

The finding has come out of a $3 million National Science Foundation funded project to study "Emerging Wildlife Diseases: Threats to Amphibian Biodiversity." Under the grant, Collins and his team have been focusing on defining how important a role pathogens play among a host of possible causes in the decline of amphibian populations worldwide.

Early in the project, the team began to focus on two apparently "emerging" pathogens in particular a chytrid fungus and an iridovirus both unfamiliar organisms, though geographically widespread. The chytrid fungus in particular appears to be responsible for major population declines and even waves of mass extinction occurring in Central America, throughout the Rocky Mountain region in North America, and in Australia.

Collins's lab was particularly focused on the iridovirus, which was responsible for observed mass die-offs of tiger salamanders in isolated stock ponds in southern Arizona. The team was initially mystified about how the virus was being introduced to the ponds, which can be isolated from each other by miles.

"We were really interested in the ways in which it could be moving around, and whether or not it can jump between species," Collins said.

The salamander virus is related to another iridovirus strain that is endemic in frog populations. But preliminary analysis by the team has found that the salamander-killing virus is even closer to a virus found in sport fish (including rainbow trout), which in turn the researchers suspect resulted when the virus jumped from frogs to fish. The salamander virus however, is distinct from either of these and may be a recent development because of its lack of genetic diversity.

"The basic story, based on the molecular analysis, is that the virus has a very recent history in
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Contact: James Hathaway
hathaway@asu.edu
480-965-6375
Arizona State University
8-Sep-2004


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