Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis is considered a main driver of the worldwide declines and extinctions of amphibian populations. Nonetheless, fundamental questions about its epidemiology, including whether it acts mainly as a “lone killer” or in conjunction with other factors, remain largely open. In this paper we analysed contemporary and historical samples of the endangered Apennine yellow-bellied toad (Bombina pachypus) along the Italian peninsula, in order to assess the presence of the pathogen and its spreading dynamics. Once common throughout its range, B. pachypus started to decline after the mid-1990s in the northern and central regions, whereas no declines have been observed so far in the southern region. We show that Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis is currently widespread along the entire peninsula, and that this was already so at least as early as the late 1970s, that is, well before the beginning of the observed declines. This temporal mismatch between pathogen occurrence and host decline, as well as the spatial pattern of the declines, suggests that the pathogen has not acted as a “lone killer”, but in conjunction with other factors. Among the potentially interacting factors, we identified two as the most probable, genetic diversity of host populations and recent climate changes. We discuss the plausibility of this scenario and its implications on the conservation of B. pachypus populations.
PLOS ONE: Widespread Occurrence of Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis in Contemporary and Historical Samples of the Endangered Bombina pachypus along the Italian Peninsula