Fitness Consequences of Infection by Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis in Northern Leopard Frogs (Lithobates pipiens)

Abstract

The amphibian chytrid fungus, Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd), has been linked to amphibian declines and extinctions worldwide. The pathogen has been found on amphibians throughout eastern North America, but has not been associated with mass die-offs in this region. In this study, we conducted laboratory experiments on the effects of Bd infection in a putative carrier species, Lithobates pipiens, using two estimators of fitness: jumping performance and testes morphology. Over the 8-week study period, peak acceleration during jumping was not significantly different between infected and uninfected animals. Peak velocity, however, was significantly lower for infected animals after 8 weeks. Two measures of sperm production, germinal epithelium depth, and maximum spermatic cyst diameter, showed no difference between infected and uninfected animals. The width, but not length, of testes of infected animals was significantly greater than in uninfected animals. This study is the first to show effects on whole-organism performance of Bd infection in post-metamorphic amphibians, and may have important long-term, evolutionary implications for amphibian populations co-existing with Bd infection.

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Acknowledgments

We thank K. Bain, J. Edwards and M. Hinton for help in the lab, and D. Sever and T. Sherry for use of their histological facilities. This study was funded largely by a grant to MWHC from the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, and was carried out in accordance with the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committees of Tulane University (protocol number 0413) and the University of New Orleans (protocol number 11-003).

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Correspondence to Matthew W. H. Chatfield.

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Chatfield, M.W.H., Brannelly, L.A., Robak, M.J. et al. Fitness Consequences of Infection by Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis in Northern Leopard Frogs (Lithobates pipiens). EcoHealth 10, 90–98 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10393-013-0833-7

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Keywords

  • Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis
  • chytrid fungus
  • fitness
  • northern leopard frog
  • Lithobates pipiens
  • whole-organism performance