Is chytridiomycosis an emerging amphibian disease in Asia?
The disease chytridiomycosis, caused by the fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd), has caused dramatic amphibian population declines and extinctions in Australia, Central and North America, and Europe. Bd is associated with >200 species extinctions of amphibians, but not all species that become infected are susceptible to the disease. Specifically, Bd has rapidly emerged in some areas of the world, such as in Australia, USA, and throughout Central and South America, causing population and species collapse. The mechanism behind the rapid global emergence of the disease is poorly understood, in part due to an incomplete picture of the global distribution of Bd. At present, there is a considerable amount of geographic bias in survey effort for Bd, with Asia being the most neglected continent. To date, Bd surveys have been published for few Asian countries, and infected amphibians have been reported only from Indonesia, South Korea, China and Japan. Thus far, there have been no substantiated reports of enigmatic or suspected disease-caused population declines of the kind that has been attributed to Bd in other areas. In order to gain a more detailed picture of the distribution of Bd in Asia, we undertook a widespread, opportunistic survey of over 3,000 amphibians for Bd throughout Asia and adjoining Papua New Guinea. Survey sites spanned 15 countries, approximately 36° latitude, 111° longitude, and over 2000 m in elevation. Bd prevalence was very low throughout our survey area (2.35% overall) and infected animals were not clumped as would be expected in epizootic events. This suggests that Bd is either newly emerging in Asia, endemic at low prevalence, or that some other ecological factor is preventing Bd from fully invading Asian amphibians. The current observed pattern in Asia differs from that in many other parts of the world.