Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Acute mortality in California tiger salamander (Ambystoma californiense) and Santa Cruz long-toed salamander (Ambystoma macrodactylum croceum) caused by Ribeiroia ondatrae (Class: Trematoda)

October 18, 2021

In early September 2019, a morbidity and mortality event affecting California tiger salamanders (Ambystoma californiense) and Santa Cruz long-toed salamanders (Ambystoma macrodactylum croceum) in late stages of metamorphosis was reported at a National Wildlife Refuge in Santa Cruz County, California, U.S.A. During the postmortem disease investigation, severe integumentary metacercarial (Class: Trematoda) infection, associated with widespread skin lesions, was observed. Planorbid snails collected from the ponds of the refuge within seven days of the mortality event were infected with Ribeiroia ondatrae, a digenetic trematode that can cause malformation and death in some amphibians. We suggest sustained seasonal high-water levels due to active habitat management along with several years of increased rainfall led to increased bird visitation, increased over-wintering of snails, and prolonged salamander metamorphosis, resulting in a confluence of conditions and cascading of host-parasite dynamics to create a hyper-parasitized state.