The Lethal Fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis Is Present in Lowland Tropical Forests of Far Eastern Panama


The fungal disease chytridiomycosis, caused by Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd), is one of the main causes of amphibian population declines and extinctions all over the world. In the Neotropics, this fungal disease has caused catastrophic declines in the highlands as it has spread throughout Central America down to Panamá. In this study, we determined the prevalence and intensity of Bd infection in three species of frogs in one highland and four lowland tropical forests, including two lowland regions in eastern Panamá in which the pathogen had not been detected previously. Bd was present in all the sites sampled with a prevalence ranging from 15–34%, similar to other Neotropical lowland sites. The intensity of Bd infection on individual frogs was low, ranging from average values of 0.11–24 zoospore equivalents per site. Our work indicates that Bd is present in anuran communities in lowland Panamá, including the Darién province, and that the intensity of the infection may vary among species from different habitats and with different life histories. The population-level consequences of Bd infection in amphibian communities from the lowlands remain to be determined. Detailed studies of amphibian species from the lowlands will be essential to determine the reason why these species are persisting despite the presence of the pathogen.