Protozoan Parasites in Columbia Spotted Frogs on the Flathead Indian Reservation, in Northwestern Montana
Gary D. R. Lesser1, Dr. Kirwin Werner2, and Antony Berthelote1
1‐Salish Kootenai College, Pablo, Montana. 2‐Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, Pablo, Montana
Knowledge of amphibian and reptile diseases has become increasingly important in the face of catastrophic die‐offs, declining populations, dwindling habitat, and the introduction of exotic pathogens. In many instances, pathogens appear to be interacting with other environmental factors such as herbicides and pesticides to lower the animal’s immune system making them more susceptible to die‐offs. Catastrophic die‐offs have been most associated with fungal and viral infections; trematodes are the causative agent in amphibian limb deformities including those observed in Montana. Protozoan blood parasites are one group of organisms that have received little attention among parasitologists/herpetologists in Montana. A 3‐year project was initiated in 2011 in order to collect blood samples from approximately 350 amphibians and reptiles covering most areas of the state. Blood smears were examined for hematozoan parasites (hemogregarine and trypanosome). Four of 32 amphibians sampled on the Flathead Reservation in 2011 were infected with trypanosome parasites; four frogs that were taken from Mollman Ponds were Columbia Spotted Frogs (Rana luteiventris) and were positive. Thus, the following 2012 survey focused on comparing parasites in Columbia Spotted Frogs (Rana luteiventris) from the forested/Mollman Ponds site in order to see if the 2011 results were real or just a sampling artifact. 80% of Columbia Spotted Frogs that were sampled in the forested area tested positive compared to the complete lack of parasites found in the agricultural area 10 miles away.