Experimental transmission of cutaneous chytridiomycosis in dendrobatid frogs.
In a series of three experiments during March-October, 1998, two species of captive-bred poison dart frogs (Dendrobates tinctorius, n=8; and D. auratus, n=8) were exposed to Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, a recently-described chytridiomycete fungus (chytrid) that was originally isolated from a blue poison dart frog (D. azureus). All frogs exposed to the chytrids developed a fatal skin disease, whereas none of the control frogs developed skin lesions. The most consistent clinical sign in chytrid-exposed frogs was excessive shedding of skin. Gross lesions were subtle, usually affected the legs and ventrum, and consisted of mild skin thickening and discoloration. Microscopic examination of shed skin pieces and/or skin imprints demonstrated the presence of chytrids and was used for ante mortem and post mortem confirmation of chytrid infection. Histologically, there was epidermal hyperkeratosis, hyperplasia, and hypertrophy associated with low to moderate numbers of chytrids in the keratinized layers. These experiments demonstrated that Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis can be a fatal pathogen in poison dart frogs. The experimentally-induced disease in these frogs resembled cases of cutaneous chytridiomycosis that have recently been described in several other species of captive and wild amphibians.