An invasive pathogen drives directional niche contractions in amphibians

Ben C. Scheele, Geoffrey W. Heard, Marcel Cardillo, Richard P. Duncan, Graeme R. Gillespie, Conrad J. Hoskin, Michael Mahony, David Newell, Jodi J.L. Rowley, Jarrod Sopniewski

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Global change is causing an unprecedented restructuring of ecosystems, with the spread of invasive species being a key driver. While population declines of native species due to invasives are well documented, much less is known about whether new biotic interactions reshape niches of native species. Here we quantify geographic range and realized-niche contractions in Australian frog species following the introduction of amphibian chytrid fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, a pathogen responsible for catastrophic amphibian declines worldwide. We show that chytrid-impacted species experienced proportionately greater contractions in niche breadth than geographic distribution following chytrid emergence. Furthermore, niche contractions were directional, with contemporary distributions of chytrid-impacted species characterized by higher temperatures, lower diurnal temperature range, higher precipitation and lower elevations. Areas with these conditions may enable host persistence with chytrid through lower pathogenicity of the fungus and/or greater demographic resilience. Nevertheless, contraction to a narrower subset of environmental conditions could increase host vulnerability to other threatening processes and should be considered in assessments of extinction risk and during conservation planning. More broadly, our results emphasize that biotic interactions can strongly shape species realized niches and that large-scale niche contractions due to new species interactions—particularly emerging pathogens—could be widespread.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1682-1692
Number of pages11
JournalNature Ecology and Evolution
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 7 Aug 2023


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