Single-host pathogen effects on mortality and behavioral responses to predators in salamanders (Urodela: Ambystomatidae)


Pathogens can alter host behavior and affect the outcome of predator-prey interactions. Acute phase responses of hosts (e.g., a change in activity level or behavioral fever) often signal an infection, but the ecological consequences of host behavioral changes largely are unexplored, particularly for directly transmitted (i.e., single-host) pathogens. We performed three experiments to test the hypothesis that a pathogen, Ambystoma tigrinum virus (ATV), alters host behavior of Sonoran tiger salamanders (Ambystoma tigrinum stebbinsi Lowe, 1954) and enhances predation. In the first experiment, salamander larvae exposed to ATV experienced 48% lower mortality from dragonfly Anax junius (Drury, 1773) larvae than those in controls. Second, uninfected and infected larvae exposed to the nonlethal (caged) presence of predators did not significantly differ in their distance from the predator. Infected salamanders significantly increased their activity level relative to those in controls in predator-free conditions. Finally, ATV-infected larvae preferred significantly warmer temperatures than uninfected larvae, but larvae reared at the thermal maximum for the virus all died. High host activity level yet retention of effective antipredator responses likely benefits ATV because this single-host pathogen relies on host survival for transmission. Preference for warmer temperatures may be associated with the host response to pathogens and may help fight infection.

Publication Title

Canadian Journal of Zoology