Get access

Life history tradeoffs influence mortality associated with the amphibian pathogen Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis


  • Trenton W. J. Garner,

  • Susan Walker,

  • Jaime Bosch,

  • Stacey Leech,

  • J. Marcus Rowcliffe,

  • Andrew A. Cunningham,

  • Matthew C. Fisher

T. W. J. Garner (, S. Walker, S. Leech, J. M. Rowcliffe and A. A. Cunningham, Inst. of Zoology, Zool. Soc. of London, Regent's Park, NW1 4RY, London, UK. – SW and M. C. Fisher, Div. of Primary Care & Population Health Sciences, Imperial College, St. Mary's Hospital, Norfolk Place, W2 1PG, London, UK. – J. Bosch, Museo Nacional de Ciencias Naturales (CSIC), José Gutierrez Abascal 2, ES-28006 Madrid, Spain.


Fatal amphibian chytridiomycosis has typically been associated with the direct costs of infection. However the relationship between exposure to the pathogen, infection and mortality may not be so straightforward. Using results from both field work and experiments we report how exposure of common toads to Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis influences development and survival and how developmental stage influences host responses. Our results show that costs are accrued in a dose dependent manner during the larval stage and are expressed at or soon after metamorphosis. Exposure to B. dendrobatidis always incurs a growth cost for tadpoles and can lead to larval mortality before or soon after metamorphosis even when individuals do not exhibit infection at time of death. In contrast, exposure after metamorphosis almost always results in infection, but body size dictates survival to a greater extent than does dose. These data show that amphibian survival in the face of challenge by an infectious agent is dependent on host condition as well as life history stage. Under current models of climate change, many species of amphibia are predicted to increasingly occur outside their environmental optima. In this case, condition-dependent traits such as we have demonstrated may weigh heavily on species survival.