Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, an aquatic fungus, has been linked to recent amphibian population declines. Few surveys have assessed B. dendrobatidis infections in areas where the disease is suggested to be less virulent and population declines have not been observed, such as southeastern North America. Although adult Rana catesbeiana and Rana sphenocephala from the Savannah River Site, South Carolina collected in 1979 and 1982 were identified as having B. dendrobatidis, it is unknown whether the fungus is currently present at the site or if susceptibility to infection varies among species or wetlands with different histories of environmental contamination. From 15 May through 15 August 2004, we collected R. catesbeiana and R. sphenocephala tadpoles from three wetlands with differing contamination histories on the Savannah River Site, South Carolina. We found B. dendrobatidis in only one of the wetlands we surveyed. Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis infection was identified in 64% of the R. catesbeiana tadpoles sampled and histologically assessed (n=50) from a wetland contaminated with mercury, copper, and zinc. No R. sphenocephala tadpoles from this site (n=50) were infected. In combination with a recently published report, our data suggest that B. dendrobatidis has been present at the Savannah River Site for over 25 yr but has not caused any apparent population declines. This time period is similar to the known presence of 30 yr of B. dendrobatidis in northeastern North America. Our data suggest that R. sphenocephala larvae might be resistant to infection, even when occupying the same wetland as the infected R. catesbeiana. Our survey did not clarify the effects of environmental contamination on infection severity, but our study stresses the importance of additional field surveys to document how this pathogen is affecting amphibians globally.
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Vol. 43 • No. 3