Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis in natural and farmed Louisiana crayfish populations: prevalence and implications.
The pathogenic chytrid fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd) has been linked to global declines and extinctions of amphibians, making it one of the most devastating wildlife pathogens known. Understanding the factors that affect disease dynamics in this system is critical for mitigating infection and protecting threatened species. Crayfish are hosts of this pathogen and can transmit Bd to amphibians. Because they co-occur with susceptible amphibian communities, crayfish may be important alternative hosts for Bd. Understanding the prevalence and seasonal dynamics of crayfish infections is of agricultural and ecological interest in areas where crayfish are farmed and traded for human consumption. We conducted a survey of Bd in farmed and natural crayfish (Procambarus spp.) populations in Louisiana, USA. We found that Bd prevalence and infection intensity was low in both farmed and native populations and that prevalence varied seasonally in wild Louisiana crayfish. This seasonal pattern mirrors that seen in local amphibians. As crayfish are an important globally traded freshwater taxon, even with low prevalence, they could be an important vector in the spread of Bd.