The effects of a fungicide and chytrid fungus on anuran larvae in aquatic mesocosms


The amphibian disease chytridiomycosis, caused by the pathogenic fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd), has been linked to significant amphibian declines over the past three decades. The most severe effects of the pathogen have been primarily observed in relatively pristine areas that are not affected by many anthropogenic factors. One hypothesis concerning improved amphibian persistence with Bd in disturbed landscapes is that contaminants may abate the effects of Bd on amphibians. Recent laboratory studies have shown that pesticides, specifically the fungicide thiophanate-methyl (TM), can kill Bd outside of hosts and clear Bd infections within hosts. Using aquatic mesocosms, we tested the hypothesis that TM (0.43 mg/L) would alter growth and development of Lithobates sphenocephalus (southern leopard frog) tadpoles and Bd-infection loads in infected individuals. We hypothesized that the scope of such alterations and infection clearing would be affected by aquatic community variables, specifically zooplankton. TM altered zooplankton diversity (reduced cladoceran and increased copepod and ostracod abundances) and caused mortality to all tadpoles in TM-exposed tanks. In TM-free tanks, Bd-exposed tadpoles in high-density treatments metamorphosed smaller than Bd-unexposed, effects that were reversed in low-density treatments. Our study demonstrates the potential adverse effects of a fungicide and Bd on tadpoles and aquatic systems.

Publication Title

Environmental Science and Pollution Research