Projects on microbes and chytrid at JMIH 2014

For the past few days I have been at the 2014 Joint Meeting of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists, which met in Chattanooga, TN this year. To my slight surprise, there were a large number of talks and posters on chytrid and on microbial communities of amphibian skin. Here is some information on just a couple of those.

1. Grace from the Karen Lips lab at University of Maryland presented evidence that Atelopus zeteki was a “super-shedder” of Bd that could potentially amplify the number of chytrid zoospores in the environment. This was due to the high concentrations of Bd found on their skin following infection, and, when soaked in water, high concentrations of zoospores were detected from the water. The Pacific chorus frog (Pseudacris regilla) is also thought to be a carrier of the chytrid fungus, but it does not die as quickly as the Panamanian golden frog does in the presence of the fungus so it might function more in allowing the fungus to persist rather than amplifying it.

2. Bd was detected in the Virgin Islands for the first time on Eleutherodactylus sp. by Dr. Renata Platenberg from the University of the Virgin Islands.

3. Skin microbe communities from 8 different species of plethodontid salamanders were examined by Amanda Allison and Ben Fitzpatrick. They found no significant differences between the different species of salamanders, but the bacterial communities were different from the environment, suggesting that a generalized probiotic could be used to protect several species of plethodontids at once.

It was clear from the number of posters and talks on bacteria at the meeting that microbial communities of reptiles and amphibians are becoming more widely studied. This is unsurprising, given the recent discoveries of the role of symbiotic bacteria in the human gut. I am optimistic that further breakthroughs in the study of symbiotic microbial communities will be forthcoming in the next few years.

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