Impact of Snake Fungal Disease on Population Viability

Sarah J. Baker, Michael J. Dreslik, Christopher A. Phillips, Matthew C. Allender

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


Snake fungal disease (SFD) is an emerging fungal pathogen infecting both wild and captive snake species. The causative agent of SFD has been identified as Ophidiomyces ophiodiicola, a keratinophilic soil inhabiting fungus. Clinical signs of SFD include swelling, abnormal scales, and skin lesions. The last extant population of Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnakes (Sistrurus catenatus) in Illinois has an annual SFD prevalence rate of 15-22% andevidence suggests mortality rates may be greater than 90%. Eastern Massasaugas were listed as federally threatened under the Endangered Species Act in 2016, and thus the impact of disease on the viability of wild populations is of great conservation concern. We used data from 15 years of demographic population monitoring and five years of SFD surveillance to conduct a population viability analysis (PVA). We used the Meta-Model Manager extension of Vortex PVA software to merge our demographic PVA model withthe SFD disease dynamics model developed in the Vortex Outbreak extension. Our results show that SFD increases the probability of extinction of the Illinois population, and thus is likely a threat to the persistence of the species range wide.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publication2017 Joint Meeting of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists, July 12-16, 2017 Austin, Texas
StatePublished - 2017


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