• Open Access

Temperature alters reproductive life history patterns in Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, a lethal pathogen associated with the global loss of amphibians

Authors

  • Jamie Voyles,

    Corresponding author
    1. School of Public Health, Tropical Medicine and Rehabilitation Sciences, Amphibian Disease Ecology Group, James Cook University, Townsville, Queensland, Australia
    • Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management, University of California- Berkeley, Berkeley, California, USA
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  • Leah R. Johnson,

    1. Department of Ecology and Evolution, University of Chicago, Chicago, IL, USA
    2. Department of Ecology, Evolution and Marine Biology, University of California, Santa Barbara, CA, USA
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  • Cheryl J. Briggs,

    1. Department of Ecology, Evolution and Marine Biology, University of California, Santa Barbara, CA, USA
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  • Scott D. Cashins,

    1. School of Public Health, Tropical Medicine and Rehabilitation Sciences, Amphibian Disease Ecology Group, James Cook University, Townsville, Queensland, Australia
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  • Ross A. Alford,

    1. School of Marine and Tropical Biology, Amphibian Disease Ecology Group, James Cook University, Townsville, Queensland, Australia
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  • Lee Berger,

    1. School of Public Health, Tropical Medicine and Rehabilitation Sciences, Amphibian Disease Ecology Group, James Cook University, Townsville, Queensland, Australia
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  • Lee F. Skerratt,

    1. School of Public Health, Tropical Medicine and Rehabilitation Sciences, Amphibian Disease Ecology Group, James Cook University, Townsville, Queensland, Australia
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  • Rick Speare,

    1. School of Public Health, Tropical Medicine and Rehabilitation Sciences, Amphibian Disease Ecology Group, James Cook University, Townsville, Queensland, Australia
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  • Erica Bree Rosenblum

    1. Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management, University of California- Berkeley, Berkeley, California, USA
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  • This project was funded by the Australian Research Council Discovery Project (DP0452826), the Australian Government Department of Environment and Heritage (RFT 43/2004), the National Institutes of Health (P20RR16448) and the National Science Foundation (EF-0723871).

Correspondence

Jamie Voyles, Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management, University of California- Berkeley, Berkeley, California, 94720-3144, USA. Tel: +720-883-2341; Fax: +(208) 885-7905; E-mail: jamie.voyles@gmail.com or jamievoyles@berkeley.edu

Abstract

Understanding how pathogens respond to changing environmental conditions is a central challenge in disease ecology. The environmentally sensitive fungal pathogen Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd), which causes the amphibian disease chytridiomycosis, has spread globally causing amphibian extirpations in a wide variety of climatic regions. To gain an in-depth understanding of Bd's responses to temperature, we used an integrative approach, combining empirical laboratory experiments with mathematical modeling. First, we selected a single Bd isolate and serially propagated two lineages of the isolate for multiple generations in two stable thermal conditions: 4°C (cold-adapted lineage) and 23°C (warm-adapted lineage). We quantified the production of infectious zoospores (fecundity), the timing of zoospore release, and zoospore activity in reciprocal temperature transplant experiments in which both Bd lineages were grown in either high or low temperature conditions. We then developed population growth models for the Bd lineages under each set of temperature conditions. We found that Bd had lower population growth rates, but longer periods of zoospore activity in the low temperature treatment (4°C) compared to the high temperature treatment (23°C). This effect was more pronounced in Bd lineages that were propagated in the low temperature treatment (4°C), suggesting a shift in Bd's response to low temperature conditions. Our results provide novel insights into the mechanisms by which Bd can thrive in a wide variety of temperature conditions, potentially altering the dynamics of chytridiomycosis and thus, the propensity for Bd to cause amphibian population collapse. We also suggest that the adaptive responses of Bd to thermal conditions warrant further investigation, especially in the face of global climate change.

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