Date of Award
Master of Science
Amphibian diversity has declined, in part, due to the infectious disease chytridiomycosis, caused by the fungal pathogen Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd). Andean water frogs in the genus Telmatobius are particularly vulnerable to the disease and the genus has been extirpated from Ecuador and in Andean cloud forests, yet populations of species persist in the high Andes of Peru and Bolivia. The Alpaca Water Frog (Telmatobius intermedius), endemic to the Peruvian Andes, can be found infected with Bd. Alpaca Water Frogs inhabit high elevation open canopy freshwater systems. My overall goal was to study the effect of chytrid infection on the trophic ecology of Telmatobius tadpoles. I used stable isotope ratios of carbon (δ13C) and nitrogen (δ15N) to characterize the the trophic structure and energy flow in this system. I observed the values of δ15N were higher for tadpoles than algal material (t-test, t= -8.60, df= 34, p< 0.01), mayfly nymphs (t-test, t= 5.25, df= 30, p< 0.01), and predatory aquatic invertebrates (t-test, t= -4.18, df= 47, p< 0.01). In regard to the δ15N values of tadpoles and frogs, tadpoles had a lower value (t-test, t= -3.0, df= 31, p< 0.01). Values of δ15N in tadpoles were relatively high, signaling the presence of animal tissue in their diet. I also investigated changes in tadpole diet associated with mouthpart deformities caused by the fungal pathogen Bd. There was a positive association between the extent of mouthpart deformity and Bd infection (Fisher’s Exact test, p<0.001). The relative proportions of diatom morphotaxa groups found in the foregut of T. intermedius tadpoles varied in association with the degree of mouthpart deformity, as indicated by an ANOSIM analysis (R=0.875, p<0.001). Finally, in addition to Bd prevalence in adult aquatic frogs, I investigated whether Alpaca Water Frogs and other Andean Water Frogs tested positive for the antifungal bacterium Janthinobacterium lividum (Jliv). My results show that 57% of the sampled frogs were infected with Bd, 12.5% of frogs hosted both Jliv and Bd, while 7.2% hosted just Jliv. We found that the probability of an individual being infected with Bd was independent of the presence of Jliv; however, we did detect a protective effect of Jliv with respect to intensity of infection. My findings demonstrate that the fungal pathogen Bd influences the trophic ecology of tadpoles of Andean water frogs.
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