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Upward range extension of Andean anurans and chytridiomycosis to extreme elevations in response to tropical deglaciation

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Abstract

High-alpine life forms and ecosystems exist at the limits of habitable environments, and thus, are especially sensitive to environmental change. Here we report a recent increase in the elevational limit of anurans following glacial retreat in the tropical Peruvian Andes. Three species have colonized ponds in recently deglaciated terrain at new record elevations for amphibians worldwide (5244–5400 m). Two of these species were also found to be infected with Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd), an emerging fungal pathogen causally associated with global amphibian declines, including the disappearance of several Latin American species. The presence of this pathogen was associated with elevated mortality rates of at least one species. These results represent the first evidence of upward expansion of anurans to newly available habitat brought about by recent deglaciation. Furthermore, the large increase in the upper limit of known Bd infections, previously reported as 4112 m in Ecuador, to 5348 m in this study, also expands the spatial domain of potential Bd pathogenicity to encompass virtually all high elevation anuran habitats in the tropical Andes.
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Keywords: Pleurodema; Telmatobius; alpine biodiversity; amphibian decline; amphibians; chytridiomycosis; climate change; deglaciation; ecological succession; tropical andes

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Columbia University, 630 W 168th Street, New York, NY 10032, USA, 2: The Earth Institute, Columbia University, 61 Rt. 9W, Palisades, NY 10964, USA, 3: Consortium for Conservation Medicine, 460 West 34th Street, New York, NY 10001, USA, 4: Instituto de Ecología, Universidad Mayor de San Andrés, La Paz, Bolivia, 5: Departamento de Herpetología, Museo de Historia Natural Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos, Av. Arenales 1256, Jesús María, Apdo 14-0434, Lima 14, Perú, 6: Stratus Consulting, 1881 9th Street Suite 201, Boulder, CO, USA, 7: CSIRO, Livestock Industries, Australian Animal Health Laboratory, 5 Portarlington Road, Private Bag 24, Geelong, Vic. 3220, Australia, 8: Barnard College, Columbia University, 3001 Broadway, New York, NY 10027, USA, 9: Natural History Museum and Biodiversity Research Center, 1345 Jayhawk Blvd, University of Kansas, Lawrence, KS 66045, USA

Publication date: 2007-01-01

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