Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis exposure effects on foraging efficiencies and body size in anuran tadpoles


Chytridiomycosis, the amphibian disease caused by the pathogenic fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd), is fatal to adults of many species. Bd is largely sublethal to amphibian larvae; however, it is known to reduce larval (i.e. tadpole) growth rates, with possible long-term effects on population dynamics and fitness. We conducted an experiment to test how Bd altered southern leopard frog Lithobates sphenocephalus tadpole mouthpart damage, percentage of food ingested, and subsequent body size. We examined our results using path analyses. We hypothesized that Bd would increase mouthpart damage, causing less food to be ingested, and ultimately reduce body size. In our model, both Bd exposure and increased mouthpart damage significantly reduced food ingested and subsequent body size. However, our study provides evidence against the long-standing hypothesis of mouthpart damage as a pathway for Bd-induced reductions in larval group. Here we provide evidence for reduced foraging efficiency (percentage of food ingested) as a mechanism for Bd-induced reductions in body size. This work highlights the importance of studying the sublethal effects of Bd on larval amphibians.

Publication Title

Diseases of Aquatic Organisms