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Georgia Journal of Science

Article Title

OPHIDIOMYCES OPHIDIICOLA INFECTION PREVALENCE IN TIMBER RATTLESNAKES (CROTALUS HORRIDUS LINNEAUS, 1758) FROM THE LOWER PIEDMONT OF CENTRAL GA, USA **

Abstract

Ophidiomyces ophidiicola, the causative agent of Ophidiomycosis, formerly known as Snake Fungal Disease (SFD) is an emerging infection in many species of snakes around the globe. Here, we examine the infection prevalence of Ophidiomyces ophidiicola (Oo) in Timber Rattlesnakes (Crotalus horridus LINNEAUS, 1758) from Cedar Creek Wildlife Management Area (CCWMA) in Putnam Co., Georgia that are part of a long-term radio telemetry study. The CCWMA is a 40,000-acre property within the Oconee National Forest that is characterized by upland Loblolly Pine forests, bottomland hardwood forests, mixed pine-hardwood forests where the previous two associations adjoin, and scattered clear cuts at various secessional stages. The study area is also bisected by a major two-lane highway and a series of smaller paved and unpaved access roads. Both adults from the telemetry study, and neonates born in the lab from females in the same population, were swabbed and will be screened for Oo DNA using quantitative PCR analysis. Based on lesions typically associated with ophydiomycosis present in the adults, we expect to find a high infection prevalence in these animals because of the severity of signs of disease observed. There have been previous reports of vertical transmission of Oo, therefore we cannot rule out infection of the neonates. The emergence of Oo in wild populations of snakes in central Georgia is of concern because Timber Rattlesnakes are in decline for most of their southern range. It is important to understand the dynamics of Oo infection and resultant disease in these animals.

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