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Tagging frogs with passive integrated transponders causes disruption of the cutaneous bacterial community and proliferation of opportunistic fungi

Antwis, RE and Garcia, G and Fidgett, AL and Preziosi, RF (2014) Tagging frogs with passive integrated transponders causes disruption of the cutaneous bacterial community and proliferation of opportunistic fungi. Applied and Environmental Microbiology, 80 (15). pp. 4779-4784. ISSN 0099-2240

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Abstract

Symbiotic bacterial communities play a key role in protecting amphibians from infectious diseases including chytridiomycosis, caused by the pathogenic fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis. Events that lead to the disruption of the bacterial community may have implications for the susceptibility of amphibians to such diseases. Amphibians are often marked both in the wild and in captivity for a variety of reasons, and although existing literature indicates that marking techniques have few negative effects, the response of cutaneous microbial communities has not yet been investigated. Here we determine the effects of passive integrated transponder (PIT) tagging on culturable cutaneous microbial communities of captive Morelet's tree frogs (Agalychnis moreletii) and assess the isolated bacterial strains for anti-B. dendrobatidis activity in vitro. We find that PIT tagging causes a major disruption to the bacterial community associated with the skin of frogs (~12-fold increase in abundance), as well as a concurrent proliferation in resident fungi (up to ~200-fold increase). Handling also caused a disruption the bacterial community, although to a lesser extent than PIT tagging. However, the effects of both tagging and handling were temporary, and after 2 weeks, the bacterial communities were similar to their original compositions. We also identify two bacterial strains that inhibit B. dendrobatidis, one of which increased in abundance on PIT-tagged frogs at 1 day postmarking, while the other was unaffected. These results show that PIT tagging has previously unobserved consequences for cutaneous microbial communities of frogs and may be particularly relevant for studies that intend to use PIT tagging to identify individuals involved in trials to develop probiotic treatments.

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