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PeerJ. 2017 Aug 29;5:e3688. doi: 10.7717/peerj.3688. eCollection 2017.

Skin bacterial microbiome of a generalist Puerto Rican frog varies along elevation and land use gradients.

Author information

Department of Biological Sciences, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech), Blacksburg, VA, United States of America.
Department of Biology, Universidad de Puerto Rico, San Juan, Puerto Rico.


Host-associated microbial communities are ubiquitous among animals, and serve important functions. For example, the bacterial skin microbiome of amphibians can play a role in preventing or reducing infection by the amphibian chytrid fungus, Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis. Evidence suggests that environmental bacteria likely serve as a source pool for at least some of the members of the amphibian skin bacterial community, underscoring the potential for local environmental changes to disrupt microbial community source pools that could be critical to the health of host organisms. However, few studies have assessed variation in the amphibian skin microbiome along clear environmental gradients, and so we know relatively little about how local environmental conditions influence microbiome diversity. We sampled the skin bacterial communities of Coqui frogs, Eleutherodactylus coqui (N = 77), along an elevational gradient in eastern Puerto Rico (0-875 m), with transects in two land use types: intact forest (N = 4 sites) and disturbed (N = 3 sites) forest. We found that alpha diversity (as assessed by Shannon, Simpson, and Phylogenetic Diversity indices) varied across sites, but this variation was not correlated with elevation or land use. Beta diversity (community structure), on the other hand, varied with site, elevation and land use, primarily due to changes in the relative abundance of certain bacterial OTUs (∼species) within these communities. Importantly, although microbiome diversity varied, E. coqui maintained a common core microbiota across all sites. Thus, our findings suggest that environmental conditions can influence the composition of the skin microbiome of terrestrial amphibians, but that some aspects of the microbiome remain consistent despite environmental variation.


Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis; Chytrid; Eleutherodactylus coqui; Elevation; Land use; Microbiome; Skin bacteria

Conflict of interest statement

The authors declare there are no competing interests.

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