Chapter

Parasite Infection and Limb Malformations: A Growing Problem in Amphibian Conservation

Pieter T.J. Johnson and Kevin B. Lunde

in Amphibian Declines

Published by University of California Press

Published in print June 2005 | ISBN: 9780520235922
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520929432 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1525/california/9780520235922.003.0020
Parasite Infection and Limb Malformations: A Growing Problem in Amphibian Conservation

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Over the last two decades, scientists have become increasingly concerned about ongoing trends of amphibian population decline and extinction. Parasitic pathogens, including certain bacteria, fungi, viruses, and helminths, have frequently been implicated as causes of gross pathology and mass die-offs, often in synergism with environmental stressors. More recently, malformed amphibians have been reported with increasing frequency in several parts of North America. Since 1992, severe limb abnormalities, including extra, missing, and malformed limbs, have appeared in dozens of species from diverse habitats, including several species in marked decline. While it is unlikely that these abnormalities have been a major source of historical amphibian population declines, they may represent an emerging threat, particularly if they are increasing in frequency. In the western United States, many of the reported sites have been linked directly to intense parasite infections. A little-studied trematode, Ribeiroia ondatrae, was identified as the culprit. This chapter examines Ribeiroia infection and amphibian limb malformations. It discusses human impacts on trematodes and their relevance to Ribeiroia epidemiology.

Keywords: United States; amphibians; population declines; Ribeiroia ondatrae; malformations; trematodes; parasite infections; epidemiology; parasitic pathogens; limb abnormalities

Chapter.  9651 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Zoology and Animal Sciences

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