Lötters, S., N. Wagner, G. Albaladejo, P. Böning, L. Dalbeck, H. Düssel, S. Feldmeier, M. Guschal, K. Kirst, D. Ohlhoff, K. Preissler, T. Reinhardt, M. Schlüpmann, U. Schulte, V. Schulz, S. Steinfartz, S. Twietmeyer, M. Veith, M. Vences & J. Wegge

In Issues 2020

The amphibian pathogen Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans in the hotspot of its European invasive range: past – present – future. pp. 173-188 plus Supplementary documents.

Abstract. The salamander plague, caused by the amphibian chytrid fungus Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans (Bsal), is one of the most devastating amphibian diseases, currently threatening the entire Western Palearctic caudate diversity with extinction. Apparently of Asian origin and recently introduced into Europe, Bsal is known from currently ca. 80 sites in the wild in four European countries. Germany is the Bsal ‘hotspot’, with more than half (N = 50) of all known European records to date. We here present data based on > 8,500 caudate specimens sampled for Bsal mainly via skin swabbing and quantitative real time PCR (> 3,300 since 2019). Within regions of Bsal occurrence ~ 6–7% of the studied caudates were Bsal-positive. The oldest known European record of the pathogen is from this country (2004), but a massive Bsal dispersal has only been recognized within the last five years with 17 new Bsal sites since 2019 alone. Currently, Bsal is spreading within the northern and the southern Eifel and – since 2017 – the Ruhr District. Most recently, the pathogen was for the first time detected in southern Germany (Bavaria) and a further range expansion is expected. A new species distribution model (SDM) of Bsal based on > 100 native and invasive records predicts suitable areas in most parts of Germany. Bsal affects all five caudate species known from these regions and has catastrophic effects on the European fire salamander (Salamandra salamandra). All affected populations in Germany (as well as Belgium and The Netherlands) have dramatically declined. While some may have become extinct due to the salamander plague, in most Bsal-positive sites European fire salamanders can still be recorded at low numbers (at least via systematic larval surveys), and at least one population seems to have recovered as currently Bsal detection remains negative. Little is known about the effect of Bsal on newts, and both prevalence and individual infection load can vary greatly over time, even within one population. However, the situation of the northern crested newt (Triturus cristatus) is alarming, as this species also undergoes declines due to Bsal invasions at some sites. Although some anurans are suggested as potential Bsal reservoirs and transmitters, we detected Bsal in only one individual of the common frog (Rana temporaria) out of 365 anurans of various species tested. Co-infection of Bsal with the related chytrid taxon Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis is known from three taxa (S. salamandra, T. cristatus, Ichthyosaura alpestris) and at four sites. The alarming data from Bsal in Germany call for immediate conservation action at all levels, including ex situ conservation. We therefore strongly support the establishment and implementation of a national Bsal Action Plan.

Key words. Amphibia, Caudata, Bd/Bsal co-infection, Bsal, chytridiomycosis, EID, Germany, monitoring, national action plan, salamander plague, Salamandra salamandra, Triturus cristatus, species distribution model.

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