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Front Microbiol. 2015 Oct 27;6:1171. doi: 10.3389/fmicb.2015.01171. eCollection 2015.

Panamanian frog species host unique skin bacterial communities.

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Department of Biological Sciences, Virginia Tech Blacksburg, VA, USA ; Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute Balboa, Ancón, Republic of Panamá
Department of Biological Sciences, Virginia Tech Blacksburg, VA, USA.
Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute Balboa, Ancón, Republic of Panamá
Department of Chemistry, Villanova University Villanova, PA, USA.
Department of Statistics, Virginia Tech Blacksburg, VA, USA.
Department of Biology, James Madison University Harrisonburg, VA, USA.


Vertebrates, including amphibians, host diverse symbiotic microbes that contribute to host disease resistance. Globally, and especially in montane tropical systems, many amphibian species are threatened by a chytrid fungus, Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd), that causes a lethal skin disease. Bd therefore may be a strong selective agent on the diversity and function of the microbial communities inhabiting amphibian skin. In Panamá, amphibian population declines and the spread of Bd have been tracked. In 2012, we completed a field survey in Panamá to examine frog skin microbiota in the context of Bd infection. We focused on three frog species and collected two skin swabs per frog from a total of 136 frogs across four sites that varied from west to east in the time since Bd arrival. One swab was used to assess bacterial community structure using 16S rRNA amplicon sequencing and to determine Bd infection status, and one was used to assess metabolite diversity, as the bacterial production of anti-fungal metabolites is an important disease resistance function. The skin microbiota of the three Panamanian frog species differed in OTU (operational taxonomic unit, ~bacterial species) community composition and metabolite profiles, although the pattern was less strong for the metabolites. Comparisons between frog skin bacterial communities from Panamá and the US suggest broad similarities at the phylum level, but key differences at lower taxonomic levels. In our field survey in Panamá, across all four sites, only 35 individuals (~26%) were Bd infected. There was no clustering of OTUs or metabolite profiles based on Bd infection status and no clear pattern of west-east changes in OTUs or metabolite profiles across the four sites. Overall, our field survey data suggest that different bacterial communities might be producing broadly similar sets of metabolites across frog hosts and sites. Community structure and function may not be as tightly coupled in these skin symbiont microbial systems as it is in many macro-systems.


Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis; Kolmogorov-Smirnov measure; amphibian; chytrid fungus; microbiome; microbiota; structure-function relationship

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