Determinants of Emergence in Wildlife Disease
The amphibian fungal disease chytridiomycosis, which affects species across all continents, recently emerged as one of the greatest threats to biodiversity. Yet, many aspects of the basic biology and epidemiology of the pathogen, Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd), are still unknown, such as when and from where did Bd emerge and what is its true ecological niche? Here, we review the ecology and evolution of Bd in the Americas and highlight controversies that make this disease so enigmatic. We explore factors associated with variance in severity of epizootics focusing on the disease triangle of host susceptibility,
pathogen virulence, and environment. Reevaluating the causes of the panzootic is timely given the wealth of data on Bd prevalence across hosts and communities and the recent discoveries suggesting co-evolutionary potential of hosts and Bd. We generate a new species distribution model for Bd in the Americas based on over 30,000 records and suggest a novel future research agenda. Instead of focusing on pathogen “hot spots,” we need to identify pathogen “cold spots” so that we can better understand what limits the pathogen’s distribution. Finally, we introduce the concept of “the Ghost of Epizootics Past” to discuss expected patterns in postepizootic host communities.