Antifungal bacteria on woodland salamander skin exhibit high taxonomic diversity and geographic variability

Applied and Environmental Microbiology
By: , and 



Diverse bacteria inhabit amphibian skin; some of those bacteria inhibit growth of the fungal pathogen Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis. Yet there has been no systematic survey of anti-B. dendrobatidis bacteria across localities, species, and elevations. This is important given geographic and taxonomic variations in amphibian susceptibility to B. dendrobatidis. Our collection sites were at locations within the Appalachian Mountains where previous sampling had indicated low B. dendrobatidis prevalence. We determined the numbers and identities of anti-B. dendrobatidis bacteria on 61 Plethodon salamanders (37 P. cinereus, 15 P. glutinosus, 9 P. cylindraceus) via culturing methods and 16S rRNA gene sequencing. We sampled co-occurring species at three localities and sampled P. cinereus along an elevational gradient (700 to 1,000 meters above sea level [masl]) at one locality. We identified 50 anti-B. dendrobatidis bacterial operational taxonomic units (OTUs) and found that the degree of B. dendrobatidis inhibition was not correlated with relatedness. Five anti-B. dendrobatidis bacterial strains occurred on multiple amphibian species at multiple localities, but none were shared among all species and localities. The prevalence of anti-B. dendrobatidis bacteria was higher at Shenandoah National Park (NP), VA, with 96% (25/26) of salamanders hosting at least one anti-B. dendrobatidis bacterial species compared to 50% (7/14) at Catoctin Mountain Park (MP), MD, and 38% (8/21) at Mt. Rogers National Recreation Area (NRA), VA. At the individual level, salamanders at Shenandoah NP had more anti-B. dendrobatidis bacteria per individual (μ = 3.3) than those at Catoctin MP (μ = 0.8) and at Mt. Rogers NRA (μ = 0.4). All salamanders tested negative for B. dendrobatidis. Anti-B. dendrobatidis bacterial species are diverse in central Appalachian Plethodon salamanders, and their distribution varied geographically. The antifungal bacterial species that we identified may play a protective role for these salamanders.

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Antifungal bacteria on woodland salamander skin exhibit high taxonomic diversity and geographic variability
Series title Applied and Environmental Microbiology
DOI 10.1128/AEM.00186-17
Volume 83
Issue 9
Year Published 2017
Language English
Publisher American Society for Microbiology
Contributing office(s) Patuxent Wildlife Research Center
Description e00186-17; 13 p.
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