Date of Award

2023

First Advisor

Sarah Snyder

Second Advisor

Donald McClelland

Abstract

It is no secret that the environment requires conservation. Habitat destruction is rampant and human alterations have reached an irreversible level. Travel and movement around the globe have resulted in the introduction and spread of nonnative species including pathogens. Though the state of the environment is grim, methods available for conservation have expanded to encompass the field of conservation genetics. Amphibians are particularly impacted by the anthropocene and invasive pathogens. One species whose conservation could be informed by genetics is the Mountain Chicken, Leptodactylus fallax, a large, terrestrial, and critically endangered frog suffering as a result of the fungal disease chytridiomycosis. This species previously had a healthy population on the Lesser Antillean island of Montserrat, though it is now ecologically extinct and the center of a captive breeding project. Genetic methods could be useful in creating a more chytridiomycosis-resistant genotype of L. fallax or a more genetically diverse captive population for reintroduction. In contrast, a species historically sympatric with L. fallax, the whistling frog (Eleutherodactylus sp.), remains abundant in Montserrat and is a vector of Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, a fungal pathogen that causes chytridiomycosis. Recent genetic work suggests that the whistling frog is a new cryptic species that originated on Montserrat, given the genetic diversity exhibited by frogs on the island. There is much yet to discover about this species. Genetic and genomic work offers a pathway to deepen our understanding of amphibians amid their conservation crisis.

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