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Diseases of Aquatic Organisms

    DAO prepress abstract   -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/dao03715

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

    Andrew H. Loudon*, Kimberly A. Terrell, Robert W. Davis, Thomas P. Umile, Gregory J. Lipps Jr., Joe Greathouse, Eric Chapman, Kenneth Roblee, John D. Kleopfer, Emma K. Bales, Oliver J. Hyman, Reid N. Harris, Kevin P. C. Minbiole

    *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.