Alex's research is featured in the April edition of CASE News. Congrats Alex!
Our lab contributed to a comprehensive assessment of the consequences of the spread of chytrid fungus on the diversity of amphibians on all continents published today in Science. We knew chytridiomycosis, a fungal disease caused by Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis and B. salamandrivorans, can cause large declines in species richness and abundance from focal studies conducted at specific sites. However, we still lacked an answer to a common question when communicating the threat this disease poses to amphibians: how many species are affected, globally, by chytridiomycosis? Thanks to our study, led by Dr. Ben Scheele in collaboration with an international team of more than three dozen researchers, we know now the answer. And the numbers are worse than most people suspected, with over 500 species negatively affected and at least 90 species presumed extinct because of chytridiomycosis. As shown in the figure below, all groups of amphibians are affected, by some genera such as Atelopus, Craugastor and Telmatobius have lost many more species, or contain species with severe declines, than other groups.
Matt's research on the endangered Florida Grasshopper Sparrow is featured today in CASE News, the news bulletin of FIU College of Arts, Sciences and Education. Congrats Matt!
Squamates count a new genus with the description of Dendrosauridion yanesha, a new species of arboreal lizard from the Amazonian slopes of the Andes in central and southern Peru (photo above by M. Lundberg). The article authored by collaborator Dr. Edgar Lehr appeared today in the latest issue of the journal Salamandra. This new lizard had been identified as a distinct taxon and lineage in previous molecular phylogenies. The new genus Dendrosauridion can be distinguished morphologically from all other similar genera (in the group Cercosaurinae) by having the lower palpebral disc transparent and undivided, dorsal scales smooth, lateral scales distinctly smaller than dorsal scales, and lateral scales adjacent to ventrals non-granular, not forming a distinct longitudinal line along body axis. The new lizard has only been found at two localities, near Oxapampa in central Peru and near Abra Malaga in southern Peru, but its secretive and arboreal habits might make it difficult to detect at other sites. It is possible that Dendrosauridion yanesha has a larger distribution and/or that it is a more abundant species than we document in the paper. Along with our recent discovery of Euspondylus excelsum and other arboreal lizards, the addition of D. yanesha shows that the montane forest canopy of the Amazonian Andes still harbors an underestimated biodiversity of squamates.
In collaboration with Dr. Rudolf von May, we are co-editing a special issue of the journal Diversity dedicated to the Systematics and Conservation of Neotropical Amphibians and Reptiles.
The purpose of this special issue is to gather original studies focusing on herpetological systematics and conservation. We welcome contributions focusing on any Neotropical group of amphibians and/or reptiles, and which use original data or modeling of available data, aimed at improving the use of systematic and taxonomic knowledge for conservation. We also encourage papers proposing new methods to accelerate taxonomic studies, including those that present technological advances to quickly generate molecular data. This special issue will be open to all facets of conservation, ranging from applied conservation (i.e., to improve captive breeding programs, help design protected areas, or to design education projects) to policymaking and assessments of species threat status. We especially encourage reports of successful conservation initiatives that rely on the use of newly generated taxonomic information.
We welcome submissions until 30 June 2019. Learn more at https://bit.ly/2BfgRs3
Photo of Dendrobates tinctorius azureus courtesy of Emanuele Biggi.
Alex, Kenny and Mike (Dr. Donnelly's lab) presented at the FIU Biology Research Symposium on Saturday 2 February. The Biosymposium is a celebration of research conducted by students in the biological sciences at FIU. The purpose of the Symposium is to allow students to present their projects, proposals, and results in a friendly, yet professional atmosphere. At the same time, the entire Department of Biological Sciences benefits as people become familiar with the work of others. We had three prospective students visiting our lab and FIU during the weekend. Our lab presentations were:
Environmental Release of Bd: Shedding rates across an amphibian community, by Alex Shepack (oral, 15 min)
Metabolic ecology of over 100 species of amphibians across a 5,000 meter elevational gradient in the Peruvian Andes, by Mike Britton (oral, 15 min) - won 2nd prize for best oral presentation!
Effects of chytridiomycosis on fecal nutrients in tadpoles, by Kenny Anderson (oral, lighting talk)
The newest lab contribution is a review paper on amphibian skin peptides and their role in defense and healing published today in the journal Molecules. This paper is a collaboration with Dr. Elena Grasselli and her team and colleagues at Università degli Studi di Genova. The article reviews the many known roles of these peptides in protecting amphibians from microbes, predators, parasites, and more generally environmental insults. It emphasizes research on the documented function of some frog skin peptides as promoters of wound healing. One section discusses the role of skin peptides in inhibiting chytrid fungal growth, and in protecting frogs of some species from lethal chytridiomycosis. The sheer number and diversity of amphibian skin peptides, which is constantly being accrued by discoveries from newly sampled species, may contribute to a rich pharmacopeia of compounds benefiting human health.
A new note authored by our collaborator Alex Ttito and published today in Zootaxa documents new geographic records for the southern Peruvian terrestrial breeding frog Oreobates amarakaeri. This species was recently described from the foothills of the Andes in the Cusco province of Quispicanchis, but our surveys broaden the known distribution northward to Manu NP and southward to Bahuaja Sonene. Near Bahuaja, we found O. amarakaeri very close to the type locality of O. granulosus, although the two species do not seem overlap altitudinally.
Alessandro attended the 3rd Colombian Congress of Herpetology in Bogota the first week of December. He was one of the plenary speakers for a symposium dedicated to Herpetofauna Conservation organized by Vicky Flechas, Aldemar Acevedo, Nicolas Urbina and Orlando Armesto.
A paper authored by lab member Andrew Rubio and published today in the journal Diseases of Aquatic Organisms investigates the possible role of the antifungal bacterium Janthinobacterium lividum in protecting high-elevation Andean water frogs of the genus Telmatobius. These frogs are highly susceptible to chytrid fungal infections, and populations of most species inhabiting cloud forest streams have sharply declined or have not been seen since the chytrid epizootics that occurred over the last two to three decades.
The bacterium Janthinobacterium lividum inhibits the growth of Bd on the host, reduces morbidity, and improves survival. It produces a purple compound, as seen in the picture here, which inhibits fungal growth. Despite the widely documented vulnerability of Telmatobius frogs to chytridiomycosis, populations of T. intermedius, T. marmoratus and other high-elevation species persist in southern and central Peru. These species inhabit streams and wetlands above the treeline, in open habitats exposed to sunlight during the day, so there could be multiple environmental factors contributing to population persistence. In this study, we wanted to investigate whether the presence of J. lividum in several populations of Telmatobius was correlated with prevalence and intensity of chytrid infection.
We sampled nearly 130 adult frogs for both chytrid and bacterium, and found that the probability of an individual being infected with the chytrid disease was independent of the presence of the protective bacterium. However, we did detect a protective effect of J. lividum with respect to intensity of infection. The wide distribution of J. lividum in the high Andes stands in stark contrast to its rarity in lower elevation cloud forest habitats, where most species of Telmatobius have disappeared.
News from the lab