Importance of chytrid strains

One thing that I have not talked about a lot but that is ever-present in the minds of chytrid researchers is the functional difference between Bd strains. Much like viruses and bacteria, chytrid fungi have many different genetic “strains”. Strains are similar to subspecies in that they are classified as the same species, but there are differences among isolates from different locations. Different strains of Bd can have higher virulence than others, making them more dangerous to amphibians. This is one reason why many researchers are also investigating the genomics and lineages of Bd. Understanding the components and variability in the pathogen’s genome could also allow scientists to better predict new breakouts and to track down the origins of Bd (this is still highly controversial today – a recent paper suggested that it could have come from Asia instead of Africa). In any study of chytrid, it is clear that consideration needs to be taken on the impact that different strains could have on experiments and the strain used should be chosen carefully. In the Belden Lab, at least three different strains of chytrid have been used (one of which is from the U.S. and another from Panama), although they have not necessarily all been in culture at the same time.

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