Proportion of individuals with anti-Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis skin bacteria is associated with population persistence in the frog Rana muscosa. Brianna A. Lam, Jenifer B. Walke, Vance T. Vredenburg, Reid N. Harris.
The emergence of the infectious disease chytridiomycosis is a major factor responsible for amphibian extinctions in pristine habitats. However, some populations coexist with Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd), the agent of chytridiomycosis, and others go extinct when Bd arrives. Variation of pathogen severity among populations may be explained by differences of antimicrobial skin peptides and anti-Bd skin bacteria. Previous work showed that a population of the frog Rana sierrae had a high proportion of individuals with at least one species of cultured anti-Bd skin bacteria and was coexisting with Bd for more than 6 years. A population of the closely related sister species Rana muscosa had a significantly lower proportion of individuals with anti-Bd bacteria, and the following year, it went extinct due to Bd. We extended previous work to include another sampling of the R. sierrae population coexisting with Bd and found that, although the anti-Bd bacterial community somewhat differed, both populations had a h gh proportion of individuals with antifungal bacteria. We also included a population of R. muscosa that was naïve of Bd and predicted to go extinct once Bd emerged since that was the fate of neighboring populations. However, the naïve R. muscosa population had a high proportion of antifungal bacteria, which suggested that the population might survive if Bd emerged. Two years later, the population was surviving with Bd endemic. Variation in the proportion of individuals with anti-Bd skin bacteria appears to explain why some populations persist when Bd emerges in a population.