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  1. Abstract

    The amphibian skin microbiome has been the focus of numerous studies because of the protective effects that some bacteria provide against the pathogenic fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, which has caused a global panzootic among amphibians. However, the mechanisms driving community structure and function in the amphibian skin microbiome are still poorly understood, and longitudinal analyses of the skin microbiome have not yet been conducted in wild populations. In this study, we investigate longitudinal patterns in the skin microbiome of 19 individually marked adult frogs from two wild populations of the endangered Sierra Nevada yellow-legged frog (Rana sierrae), sampled over the course of 2 years. We found that individuals with low bacterial diversity (dominated by order Burkhorderiales) had significantly more stable bacterial communities than those with higher diversity. Amplicon sequence variants (ASVs) with high relative abundance were significantly less transient than those with low relative abundance, and ASVs with intermediate-level relative abundances experienced the greatest volatility over time. Based on these results, we suggest that efforts to develop probiotic treatments to combat B. dendrobatidis should focus on bacteria that are found at high relative abundances in some members of a population, as these strains are more likely to persist and remain stable in the long term.

     
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  2. Abstract

    Numerous species of amphibians declined in Central America during the 1980s and 1990s. These declines mostly affected highland stream amphibians and have been primarily linked to chytridiomycosis, a deadly disease caused by the chytrid fungusBatrachochytrium dendrobatidis(Bd). Since then, the majority of field studies on Bd in the Tropics have been conducted in midland and highland environments (>800 m) mainly because the environmental conditions of mountain ranges match the range of ideal abiotic conditions for Bd in the laboratory. This unbalanced sampling has led researchers to largely overlook host–pathogen dynamics in lowlands, where other amphibian species declined during the same period. We conducted a survey testing for Bd in 47 species (n = 348) in four lowland sites in Costa Rica to identify local host–pathogen dynamics and to describe the abiotic environment of these sites. We detected Bd in three sampling sites and 70% of the surveyed species. We found evidence that lowland study sites exhibit enzootic dynamics with low infection intensity and moderate to high prevalence (55% overall prevalence). Additionally, we found evidence that every study site represents an independent climatic zone, where local climatic differences may explain variations in Bd disease dynamics. We recommend more detection surveys across lowlands and other sites that have been historically considered unsuitable for Bd occurrence. These data can be used to identify sites for potential disease outbreaks and amphibian rediscoveries.

     
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  3. The emerging fungal pathogen, Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis ( Bd ), which can cause a fatal disease called chytridiomycosis, is implicated in the collapse of hundreds of host amphibian species. We describe chytridiomycosis dynamics in two co-occurring terrestrial salamander species, the Santa Lucia Mountains slender salamander, Batrachoseps luciae , and the arboreal salamander, Aneides lugubris . We (1) conduct a retrospective Bd -infection survey of specimens collected over the last century, (2) estimate present-day Bd infections in wild populations, (3) use generalized linear models (GLM) to identify biotic and abiotic correlates of infection risk, (4) investigate susceptibility of hosts exposed to Bd in laboratory trials, and (5) examine the ability of host skin bacteria to inhibit Bd in culture. Our historical survey of 2,866 specimens revealed that for most of the early 20th century (~1920–1969), Bd was not detected in either species. By the 1990s the proportion of infected specimens was 29 and 17% ( B. luciae and A. lugubris , respectively), and in the 2010s it was 10 and 17%. This was similar to the number of infected samples from contemporary populations (2014–2015) at 10 and 18%. We found that both hosts experience signs of chytridiomycosis and suffered high Bd -caused mortality (88 and 71% for B. luciae and A. lugubris , respectively). Our GLM revealed that Bd -infection probability was positively correlated with intraspecific group size and proximity to heterospecifics but not to abiotic factors such as precipitation, minimum temperature, maximum temperature, mean temperature, and elevation, or to the size of the hosts. Finally, we found that both host species contain symbiotic skin-bacteria that inhibit growth of Bd in laboratory trials. Our results provide new evidence consistent with other studies showing a relatively recent Bd invasion of amphibian host populations in western North America and suggest that the spread of the pathogen may be enabled both through conspecific and heterospecific host interactions. Our results suggest that wildlife disease studies should assess host-pathogen dynamics that consider the interactions and effects of multiple hosts, as well as the historical context of pathogen invasion, establishment, and epizootic to enzootic transitions to better understand and predict disease dynamics. 
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  4. Emerging infectious diseases have been especially devastating to amphibians, the most endangered class of vertebrates. For amphibians, the greatest disease threat is chytridiomycosis, caused by one of two chytridiomycete fungal pathogens Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd) and Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans ( Bsal ). Research over the last two decades has shown that susceptibility to this disease varies greatly with respect to a suite of host and pathogen factors such as phylogeny, geography (including abiotic factors), host community composition, and historical exposure to pathogens; yet, despite a growing body of research, a comprehensive understanding of global chytridiomycosis incidence remains elusive. In a large collaborative effort, Bd -Maps was launched in 2007 to increase multidisciplinary investigations and understanding using compiled global Bd occurrence data ( Bsal was not discovered until 2013). As its database functions aged and became unsustainable, we sought to address critical needs utilizing new technologies to meet the challenges of aggregating data to facilitate research on both Bd and Bsal . Here, we introduce an advanced central online repository to archive, aggregate, and share Bd and Bsal data collected from around the world. The Amphibian Disease Portal ( https://amphibiandisease.org ) addresses several critical community needs while also helping to build basic biological knowledge of chytridiomycosis. This portal could be useful for other amphibian diseases and could also be replicated for uses with other wildlife diseases. We show how the Amphibian Disease Portal provides: (1) a new repository for the legacy Bd- Maps data; (2) a repository for sample-level data to archive datasets and host published data with permanent DOIs; (3) a flexible framework to adapt to advances in field, laboratory, and informatics technologies; and (4) a global aggregation of Bd and Bsal infection data to enable and accelerate research and conservation. The new framework for this project is built using biodiversity informatics best practices and metadata standards to ensure scientific reproducibility and linkages across other biological and biodiversity repositories. 
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  5. The fungal pathogen Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis ( Bd ) is implicated in global mass die-offs and declines in amphibians. In Mesoamerica, the Bd epidemic wave hypothesis is supported by detection of Bd in historic museum specimens collected over the last century, yet the timing and impact of the early stages of the wave remain poorly understood. Chiropterotriton magnipes , the only obligate troglodytic Neotropical salamander, was abundant in its small range in the decade following its description in 1965, but subsequently disappeared from known localities and was not seen for 34 years. Its decline is roughly coincident with that of other populations of Neotropical salamanders associated with the invasion and spread of Bd . To determine the presence and infection intensity of Bd on C. magnipes and sympatric amphibian species (which are also Bd hosts), we used a noninvasive sampling technique and qPCR assay to detect Bd on museum specimens of C. magnipes collected from 1952 to 2012, and from extant populations of C. magnipes and sympatric species of amphibians. We also tested for the presence of the recently discovered Batrachochytrium salamandivorans ( Bsal ), another fungal chytridiomycete pathogen of salamanders, using a similar technique specific for Bsal . We did not detect Bd in populations of C. magnipes before 1969, while Bd was detected at low to moderate prevalence just prior to and during declines. This pattern is consistent with Bd -caused epizootics followed by host declines and extirpations described in other hosts. We did not detect Bsal in any extant population of C. magnipes . We obtained one of the earliest positive records of the fungus to date in Latin America, providing additional historical evidence consistent with the Bd epidemic wave hypothesis. Genotyping results show that at least one population is currently infected with the Global Panzootic Lineage of Bd , but our genotyping of the historical positive samples was unsuccessful. The lack of large samples from some years and the difficulty in genotyping historical Bd samples illustrate some of the difficulties inherent in assigning causality to historical amphibian declines. These data also provide an important historical baseline for actions to preserve the few known remaining populations of C. magnipes . 
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  6. Amphibians in rural landscapes often utilize various types of artificial constructions originally designed for irrigation, livestock supply, or other purposes (e.g., water tanks or cattle troughs) as breeding sites. These sites potentially function as local refugia; however, their importance for amphibian communities has yet to be widely assessed. Here we evaluate the role of artificial constructions in the persistence of amphibian populations in rural areas of central Spain, focusing on two species of conservation concern: the Common Midwife Toad, Alytes obstetricans (Laurenti 1768), and the Parsley Frog, Pelodytes punctatus (Daudin 1802). We surveyed 130 water bodies at 113 localities in an area of 1,450 km2 during the breeding season of 2018 and documented the type of breeding site, species abundance, amphibian community structure, and any detectable threats. We found non-random patterns of breeding site selection and amphibian species co-occurrence in which A. obstetricans tended to inhabit artificial water tanks with simpler amphibian communities, whereas P. punctatus tended to co-occur in naturalized ponds in abandoned quarries with complex amphibian community structures. We discuss the relevance of artificial breeding sites for the resilience of amphibian populations and propose conservation measures to improve their efficiency in the face of detected threats, including trap effects, alien species, and chytridiomycosis. 
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  7. Rollins-Smith, Louise A. (Ed.)