Host-specific thermal profiles affect fitness of a widespread pathogen

Stevenson, Lisa A., Roznik, Elizabeth A., Alford, Ross A., and Pike, David A. (2014) Host-specific thermal profiles affect fitness of a widespread pathogen. Ecology and Evolution, 4 (21). pp. 4053-4064.

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Host behavior can interact with environmental context to influence outcomes of pathogen exposure and the impact of disease on species and populations. Determining whether the thermal behaviors of individual species influence susceptibility to disease can help enhance our ability to explain and predict how and when disease outbreaks are likely to occur. The widespread disease chytridiomycosis (caused by the fungal pathogen Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, Bd) often has species-specific impacts on amphibian communities; some host species are asymptomatic, whereas others experience mass mortalities and population extirpation. We determined whether the average natural thermal regimes experienced by sympatric frog species in nature, in and of themselves, can account for differences in vulnerability to disease. We did this by growing Bd under temperatures mimicking those experienced by frogs in the wild. At low and high elevations, the rainforest frogs Litoria nannotis, L. rheocola, and L. serrata maintained mean thermal regimes within the optimal range for pathogen growth (15–25°C). Thermal regimes for L. serrata, which has recovered from Bd-related declines, resulted in slower pathogen growth than the cooler and less variable thermal regimes for the other two species, which have experienced more long-lasting declines. For L. rheocola and L. serrata, pathogen growth was faster in thermal regimes corresponding to high elevations than in those corresponding to low elevations, where temperatures were warmer. For L. nannotis, which prefers moist and thermally stable microenvironments, pathogen growth was fastest for low-elevation thermal regimes. All of the thermal regimes we tested resulted in pathogen growth rates equivalent to, or significantly faster than, rates expected from constant-temperature experiments. The effects of host body temperature on Bd can explain many of the broad ecological patterns of population declines in our focal species, via direct effects on pathogen fitness. Understanding the functional response of pathogens to conditions experienced by the host is important for determining the ecological drivers of disease outbreaks.

Item ID: 37088
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 2045-7758
Keywords: amphibian chytrid fungus; amphibian decline; Batrachochytrium dendrobatidi; body temperature; Litoria nannotis; Litoria rheocola; Litoria serrata; thermal behavior
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Copyright © 2014 The Authors. Ecology and Evolution published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.

This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Funders: Australian Research Council (ARC), James Cook University (JCU), Queensland Frog Society
Date Deposited: 25 Feb 2015 22:14
FoR Codes: 05 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 0502 Environmental Science and Management > 050202 Conservation and Biodiversity @ 50%
06 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 0602 Ecology > 060202 Community Ecology (excl Invasive Species Ecology) @ 50%
SEO Codes: 96 ENVIRONMENT > 9604 Control of Pests, Diseases and Exotic Species > 960404 Control of Animal Pests, Diseases and Exotic Species in Forest and Woodlands Environments @ 100%
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