Distribution, prevalence, and amphibian hosts of Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis in the Balkans. pp. 44-49 plus Supplementary material.
Abstract. The Mediterranean region, consisting of, amongst other areas, three main southern European peninsulas (the Iberian, Apennine, and Balkan) is known as one of the world’s biodiversity hotspots. The Iberian Peninsula was the first place in Europe where amphibians were confirmed to be infected by the amphibian chytrid fungus, Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd). Whereas the Iberian and Apennine peninsulas have been subject to intensive chytridiomycosis research, this study represents the first large-scale Bd survey in the Balkans. Over a two-year period, 454 skin swab samples of amphibians were collected in Montenegro, Albania, and the Republic of Macedonia of which 65 samples (14.3%) were Bd-positive. Bd was detected in 5 out of 11 sampled species (Bombina variegata, Hyla arborea, Lissotriton vulgaris, Pelophylax sp., and Triturus macedonicus) at 13 out of 38 localities. Infection rates did not differ between countries but varied greatly between species with a maximum in Pelophylax sp. (> 30%). Within positive Pelophylax samples, infection loads were constant across areas and age groups. Considering the Balkans’ biodiversity and the potential threat to local endemics and genetic richness, future monitoring is vital for assessing Bd presence, prevalence and infection trends in the region.
Key words. Amphibian infectious disease, Balkan Peninsula, chytridiomycosis.