Application for Scientific Permit – Available for Public Comment
Public comment on the following application for a Scientific Research (Fauna) Permit is open until 12 November 2019.
Applicant: James Cook University
Species/Taxon: Litoria ewingii (Brown tree frog), Litoria burrowsae (Tasmanian tree frog), Crinia signifera (Common Froglet), Crinia tasmaniensis (Tasmanian froglet), Limnodynastes tasmaniensis (Spotted marsh frog), Limnodynastes dumerili (Eastern banjo frog).
Location: Mt Wellington, Hartz Mountain National Park, Corrina, Couta Rocks, Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers National Park
Title of research: Collection of chytrid fungi isolates
Aim of project: The aim of this project is to conserve endangered Australian amphibians by reducing the virulence of the amphibian chytrid fungus, which causes the disease chytridiomycosis. Chytridiomycosis is the worst wildlife disease in recorded history, affecting over 500 different amphibian species. One novel control strategy is employing mycoviruses. Mycoviruses have been successfully used in agriculture to control plant fungal diseases. The viruses cause a reduction in virulence of the fungal disease, allowing increased host survival. This natural tool could be harnessed for amphibian conservation, but no chytrid mycoviruses have been found to date. This project aims to empirically determine if there are mycovirus pathogens of the chytrid fungus by conducting regional screening of chytrid isolates. Mycoviruses are typically extremely host specific, present in low concentrations, and often lost by repeated passaging or freezing. Hence, large quantities of fresh chytrid cells are required to maximise the chance of virus detection, and chytrid isolates can only be collected from infected amphibian tissue. The chytrid isolates collected in this project will also be used for other projects, including investigating how the pathogen varies around Australia and over time. This project will also provide up to date information of the disease status of Tasmanian amphibians.
Justification: The only way to collect chytrid isolates is through collection of infected amphibian tissue. The species and sites targeted have been chosen based on the high likelihood of chytrid presence. We aim to collect chytrid isolates from a range of sites and species to maximise the chance of detecting a useful mycovirus.
Maximum likely numbers of individuals involved: A maximum of 5 tadpoles per species, per site will be collected- with no more than 10 tadpoles in total collected per site. A maximum of 15 adults per species, per site, will be handled and released. No more than 30 adults in total will be sampled per site.
Activities undertaken and methods: Tadpoles will be caught with dip net during the day. Adult frogs will be caught by hand at night. The researchers involved have many years’ experience capturing and handling amphibians.
Fate of animals: Chytrid infection in tadpoles only occurs in their mouthparts, which unfortunately means they must be euthanized in order to collect the fungi. Adult frogs will be immediately released after sampling. Fungi culturing is notoriously difficult, which is why it’s important to try both methods.
Likely impact on species involved (including any by-catch): This project will have minimal impact on Tasmanian amphibian populations. The species we are targeting are common and produce a large number of offspring. Tadpole mortality rates are naturally high, so the removal of 5 individuals should have no impact on the population. The methods to sample adults are routine and should only cause temporary disturbance.