The objective of this study was to evaluate the utility of gross morphologic examination of larval mouthpart defects as a diagnostic screening test to detect Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis infection in four California, USA, anuran species. We examined mouthparts of 2,034 tadpoles of Bufo boreas, Pseudacris regilla, and Rana catesbeiana collected in 2003 and 2004 and Bufo canorus collected in 2004. Data were recorded for three morphologic features: upper toothrows, lower toothrows, and combined jaw sheaths. Mouthpart defects were observed in all four species (n=757), but only two species were infected with B. dendrobatidis (n=84). Sensitivity and specificity of the mouthparts test were 76% and 58%, respectively. Forty-two percent of B. dendrobatidis–negative animals would have been designated positive based on mouthpart defects. Observed prevalence was 43%, and true prevalence was 3.0%. Tests of the null hypothesis using logistic regression analysis showed that anuran larval mouthpart defects were not associated with B. dendrobatidis infection whether mouthparts scores were tested by individual morphologic feature or in combination (P=0.37). We conclude that B. dendrobatidis infection and anuran larval mouthpart defects are two separate processes that may occur concurrently and that evaluation of tadpole oral morphology is neither an accurate nor a reliable diagnostic test for B. dendrobatidis infection for the four species tested.
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