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A Health Checkup for Oklahoma's Frogs and Salamanders

By: 
Jena Donnell
Thursday, May 24, 2018

The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation recently partnered with the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History to  track the presence and emergence of amphibian infectious diseases, particularly Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis and ranaviruses, among our amphibian species of greatest conservation need.  

Chytrid Fungus (Bd+) Prevalence

“Chytrid” is short for chytridiomycosis, a fungal disease that infects the skin of amphibians and the mouthparts of tadpoles. Museum specimens from as early as 1926 indicate chytrid fungus has been present in Oklahoma for nearly a century. In this study, toads, tree frogs, and true frogs appeared to be more susceptible to the chytrid fungus. 

Across all sampled sites, the average chytrid infection rate was 48 percent. Sixteen sites were observed to have more than one-half of sampled individulas infected with chytrid fungus.

Ranavirus Prevalence

Ranaviruses are a group of viruses that can cause hemorrhages within the body of amphibians and some reptiles, especially on the underside of the animal.  In this study, salamanders had higher average ranavirus infection rates than frogs. 

Across all sampled sites, the average ranavirus infection rate was 20 percent. Ten sites were not observed to have ranavirus infected individuals. 

Species of Greatest Conservation Need Found during the Study

Of the 16 amphibian species of greatest conservation need recognized in Oklahoma, researchers encountered five during the study. 

Two of those species, the ringed salamander and many-ribbed salamander, had significant levels of disease infection observed despite small sample size. 

Help our Amphibians

Prevent the spread of these diseases by spraying nets, waders and boots with a 10 percent bleach solution or dry equipment in the sun for a full day. 

Financial support for this study was provided by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation through the State Wildlife Grants Program Grant (F14F01225) and by the Sam Noble Museum. Additional support was provided by the Oklahoma City Zoo and The Nature Conservancy.