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Keywords:

  • Iridovirus;
  • Atrazine;
  • Contaminant;
  • Amphibian decline;
  • Ambystoma macrodactylum

Abstract

Environmental contaminants and emerging infectious diseases are implicated as factors contributing to global amphibian declines. However, few studies have tested the interaction of these factors. We exposed six-week-old, larval long-toed salamanders (Ambystoma macrodactylum) to Ambystoma tigrinum virus (ATV; 0 or 103.5 plaque-forming units/ml) and sublethal concentrations of atrazine (0, 1.84, 18.4, and 184 μg/L) in a 4 × 2 factorial design for 30 d. We tested the effects of atrazine and virus on mass and snout-vent length (SVL) at metamorphosis and larval period as well as on rates of mortality and viral infectivity. We confirmed ATV transmission to A. macrodactylum via polymerase chain reaction, but infection rates were lower than expected, consistent with the theory predicting lower pathogen transmission to nonnative hosts. Larvae exposed to both atrazine and ATV had lower levels of mortality and ATV infectivity compared to larvae exposed to virus alone, suggesting atrazine may compromise virus efficacy. The highest atrazine level (184 μg/L) accelerated metamorphosis and reduced mass and SVL at metamorphosis significantly relative to controls. Exposure to ATV also significantly reduced SVL at metamorphosis. The present study suggests moderate concentrations of atrazine may ameliorate effects of ATV on long-toed salamanders, whereas higher concentrations initiate metamorphosis at a smaller size, with potential negative consequences to fitness.