We discovered low prevalences of chytrid fungi Bsal and Bd infection on Hong Kong newts and sympatric amphibian species in Hong Kong.
One of the major threats for the massive loss in global amphibian diversity is chytridiomycosis, caused by chytrid fungi Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd) and B. salamandrivorans (Bsal). Following its discovery in 2013, Bsal has emerged as a severe threat to the global survival of urodelans. In 2018, a study reported a high prevalence of Bsal (65.6%) in the Hong Kong newts (Paramesotriton hongkongensis, Near Threatened) of a southern China population adjacent to Hong Kong (HK). Uncertainty regarding the Bsal infection status of P. hongkongensis inhabiting HK raised deep concern over the risk of introducing Bsal from that population. We screened the skin swabs from wild individuals of P. hongkongensis, 15 sympatric amphibian species, and 16 imported amphibian species in HK for chytrids. We found that both Bsal and Bd occur in low prevalences in P. hongkongensis (Bsal 1.7%, 5/293; Bd 0.34%, 1/293), Hong Kong cascade frog, Amolops hongkongensis, family Ranidae (Bsal only, 5.26%, 1/19), and Asian common toad, Duttaphrynus melanostictus, family Bufonidae (Bsal only, 5.88%, 1/17), populations of HK, with infected individuals being asymptomatic, suggesting a potential role of these species as reservoirs of Bsal. Conversely, Bd, but not Bsal, was present on 13.2% (9/68) of imported amphibians, indicating a high chytrid introduction risk posed by international amphibian trade. Long-term surveillance of the presence of Bd and Bsal in wild and captive amphibians would be advisable, and we recommend that import and export of nonnative chytrid carriers should be prevented, especially to those regions with amphibian populations naïve to Bd and Bsal.
Hong Kong newt. Photo © Hon Shing Fung