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Diseases of Aquatic Organisms

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DAO 75:201-207 (2007)  -  doi:10.3354/dao075201

Strain differences in the amphibian chytrid Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis and non-permanent, sub-lethal effects of infection

Richard W. R. Retallick1,2,*, Verma Miera1

1School of Life Sciences, Arizona State University, PO Box 874501, Tempe, Arizona 85287-4501, USA
2Present address: GHD Pty Ltd, Level 8, 180 Lonsdale Street, Melbourne, Victoria 3000, Australia

ABSTRACT: The chytrid fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd) is likely the cause of numerous recent amphibian population declines worldwide. While the fungus is generally highly pathogenic to amphibians, hosts express a wide range of responses to infection, probably due to variation among hosts and environmental conditions, but possibly also due to variation in Bd. We investigated variation in Bd by exposing standardized host groups to 2 Bd strains in a uniform environment. All exposed frogs became infected, but subsequent lethal and sub-lethal (weight loss) responses differed among groups. These results demonstrate variation in Bd and suggest variation occurs even at small geographical scales, likely explaining some of the variation in host responses. With lower than expected mortality among infected frogs, we continued our study opportunistically to determine whether or not frogs could recover from chytridiomycosis. Using heat, we cleared infection from half of the surviving frogs, leaving the other half infected, then continued to monitor mortality and weight. Mortality ceased among disinfected frogs but continued among infected frogs. Disinfected frogs gained weight significantly more than infected frogs, to the point of becoming indistinguishable from controls, demonstrating that at least some of the effects of sub-lethal chytridiomycosis on hosts can be non-permanent and reversible.

KEY WORDS:Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis · Strains · Amphibians · Sub-lethal infection · Mortality · Recovery

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