Skin bacterial diversity of Panamanian frogs is associated with host susceptibility and presence of Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis

ISME J. 2016 Jul;10(7):1682-95. doi: 10.1038/ismej.2015.234. Epub 2016 Jan 8.


Symbiotic bacteria on amphibian skin can inhibit growth of the fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd) that has caused dramatic population declines and extinctions of amphibians in the Neotropics. It remains unclear how the amphibians' skin microbiota is influenced by environmental bacterial reservoirs, host-associated factors such as susceptibility to pathogens, and pathogen presence in tropical amphibians. We sampled skin bacteria from five co-occurring frog species that differ in Bd susceptibility at one Bd-naive site, and sampled one of the non-susceptible species from Bd-endemic and Bd-naive sites in Panama. We hypothesized that skin bacterial communities (1) would be distinct from the surrounding environment regardless of the host habitat, (2) would differ between Bd susceptible and non-susceptible species and (3) would differ on hosts in Bd-naive and Bd-endemic sites. We found that skin bacterial communities were enriched in bacterial taxa that had low relative abundances in the environment. Non-susceptible species had very similar skin bacterial communities that were enriched in particular taxa such as the genera Pseudomonas and Acinetobacter. Bacterial communities of Craugastor fitzingeri in Bd-endemic sites were less diverse than in the naive site, and differences in community structure across sites were explained by changes in relative abundance of specific bacterial taxa. Our results indicate that skin microbial structure was associated with host susceptibility to Bd and might be associated to the history of Bd presence at different sites.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anura / immunology
  • Anura / microbiology*
  • Bacteria / classification
  • Bacteria / genetics*
  • Chytridiomycota / physiology*
  • Disease Susceptibility
  • Microbiota / immunology*
  • Skin / microbiology