The pandemic disease chytridiomycosis, caused by the fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd), is a major threat to amphibian biodiversity. For most species, the exact mechanisms of chytridiomycosis that lead to negative population dynamics remain uncertain, though mounting evidence suggests that sublethal effects could be an important driver. In this review, we propose that tree frog attachment is a promising case to study the sublethal effects of a Bd infection on amphibians. A synthesis of the current knowledge on the functional morphology of the adhesive toe pads of tree frogs, on the underlying mechanisms of tree frog attachment, and on the epidermal pathology of chytridiomycosis substantiates the hypothesis that Bd-induced epidermal alterations have the potential to disrupt tree frog attachment. We highlight a series of (biomechanical) experiments to test this hypothesis and to shed some light on the sublethal disease mechanisms of chytridiomycosis. The knowledge generated from such an approach could contribute to future research on Bd epidemiology and ultimately to the conservation of the biodiversity of arboreal anurans.
- Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis
- Litoria caerulea