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Diseases of Aquatic Organisms

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DAO 153:9-16 (2023)  -  DOI:

Metabolite compositions on skins of eastern hellbenders Cryptobranchus alleganiensis alleganiensis differ with location and captivity

Andrew H. Loudon1,2,*, Kimberly A. Terrell3,4, Robert W. Davis5, Thomas P. Umile5, Gregory J. Lipps Jr.6, Joe Greathouse7, Eric Chapman8, Kenneth Roblee9, John D. Kleopfer10, Emma K. Bales1, Oliver J. Hyman2, Reid N. Harris2, Kevin P. C. Minbiole5

1Biology Department, Vancouver Island University, Nanaimo, British Columbia V9R 5S5, Canada
2Department of Biology, James Madison University, Harrisonburg, Virginia 22807, USA
3Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, Front Royal, Virginia 22630, USA
4Environmental Law Clinic, Tulane University, New Orleans, Louisiana 70118, USA
5Department of Chemistry, Villanova University, Villanova, Pennsylvania 19085, USA
6Ohio Biodiversity Conservation Partnership, Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio 43210, USA
7Department of Biological Sciences, West Liberty University, West Liberty, West Virginia 26074, USA
8Aquatic Science, Western Pennsylvania Conservancy, Blairsville, Pennsylvania 15717, USA
9New York Department of Environmental Conservation, Albany, New York 12233, USA
10Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, Richmond, Virginia 23228, USA
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Eastern hellbenders Cryptobranchus alleganiensis alleganiensis, large aquatic salamanders, are declining over most of their range. The amphibian-killing fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd) has contributed to global amphibian declines and has been detected on eastern hellbenders, but infection intensities were lower than those of species that are more susceptible to Bd. The factors limiting Bd on hellbenders may include antifungal metabolites produced by their skin microbiota. We used a metabolite fingerprinting technique to noninvasively identify the presence, but not identity, of metabolites associated with eastern hellbenders. We surveyed the skin of wild eastern hellbenders to test whether the composition and richness (i.e. number of metabolites) of their metabolites are explained by Bd status or location. Furthermore, we surveyed for metabolites on captive eastern hellbenders to test whether metabolite compositions were different between captive and wild eastern hellbenders. Bd detection was not associated with either metabolite richness or composition. Both metabolite composition and richness differed significantly on hellbenders from different locations (i.e. states). For metabolite composition, there was a statistical interaction between location and Bd status. Metabolite richness was greater on captive eastern hellbenders compared to wild hellbenders, and metabolite compositions differed between wild and captive eastern hellbenders. The methods we employed to detect metabolite profiles effectively grouped individuals by location even though metabolite composition and richness have high levels of intraspecific variation. Understanding the drivers and functional consequences of assemblages of skin metabolites on amphibian health will be an important step toward understanding the mechanisms that result in disease vulnerability.

KEY WORDS: Hellbenders · Metabolites · Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis · Disease defense · Captive rearing

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Cite this article as: Loudon AH, Terrell KA, Davis RW, Umile TP and others (2023) Metabolite compositions on skins of eastern hellbenders Cryptobranchus alleganiensis alleganiensis differ with location and captivity. Dis Aquat Org 153:9-16.

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