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  1. Abstract

    Molecular technologies have revolutionized the field of wildlife disease ecology, allowing the detection of outbreaks, novel pathogens, and invasive strains. In particular, metabarcoding approaches, defined here as tools used to amplify and sequence universal barcodes from a single sample (e.g., 16S rRNA for bacteria, ITS for fungi, 18S rRNA for eukaryotes), are expanding our traditional view of host–pathogen dynamics by integrating microbial interactions that modulate disease outcome. Here, I provide an analysis from the perspective of the field of amphibian disease ecology, where the emergence of multi-host pathogens has caused global declines and species extinctions. I reanalyzed an experimental mesocosm dataset to infer the functional profiles of the skin microbiomes of coqui frogs (Eleutherodactylus coqui), an amphibian species that is consistently found infected with the fungal pathogen Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis and has high turnover of skin bacteria driven by seasonal shifts. I found that the metabolic activities of microbiomes operate at different capacities depending on the season. Global enrichment of predicted functions was more prominent during the warm-wet season, indicating that microbiomes during the cool-dry season were either depauperate, resistant to new bacterial colonization, or that their functional space was more saturated. These findings suggest important avenues to investigate howmore »microbes regulate population growth and contribute to host physiological processes. Overall, this study highlights the current challenges and future opportunities in the application of metabarcoding to investigate the causes and consequences of disease in wild systems.

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  2. Free, publicly-accessible full text available January 1, 2023
  3. Hassapakis, Craig ; Grieneisen, M. (Ed.)
    On September 2017, Hurricane Maria swept over Puerto Rico as a Category 4 storm. Severe canopy loss, augmentation of forest floor debris, and a significant increase in temperature and light reaching the understory were among the most evident changes at El Yunque National Forest, where a population of Eleutherodactylus coqui frogs has been monitored over the past 30 years. When sampling was re-established, the frogs could be heard calling, but it was very difficult to find them among the complexity of vegetation in the forest floor. We inferred that canopy disturbance had left frogs without optimal arboreal habitats for retreat, nocturnal perching, feeding, and reproductive activities, and wondered whether they would use artificial habitats placed in the forest understory. To test this, two types of artificial habitats (i.e., “coqui houses”) were introduced in the forest understory, consisting of either open PVC pipes or single-entrance natural bamboo shoots. Surveys were conducted twice a month for 15 months in an experimental transect with coqui houses, and a control transect without them. Data were collected on the occupancy rate of the artificial sites, type of usage, time of day occupied, and the number of E. coqui observed. The effects of time since themore »hurricane, microhabitat temperature, type of coqui house, and seasonality on the occupancy rate were also evaluated. Results showed that coquis used bamboo houses mostly during daytime as retreat and nesting sites, whereas the PVC houses were used mostly at night as calling sites. Daytime occupancy of coqui houses showed a significant bell-shaped pattern over time since the hurricane. This may be explained by a steady increase in usage after severe forest damage, a peak during the stressful cool-dry season, and a decline afterwards as the forest began to recover. No differences were found in frog counts between experimental and control transects, probably because the coquis could also hide among the fallen vegetation, but either disparities in forest conditions or inappropriateness of the methods for estimating population numbers may have overshadowed this effect. Coquis used artificial houses more often during the most stressful environmental conditions, suggesting that these shelters may serve to enhance habitat quality for amphibians after extreme weather events.« less