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Ecological Correlates of Large-Scale Turnover in the Dominant Members of Pseudacris crucifer Skin Bacterial Communities

Myra C Hughey, Eric R Sokol, Jenifer B Walke, Matthew H Becker, Lisa K Belden
Microbial Ecology 2019 April 4
Animals host a wide diversity of symbiotic microorganisms that contribute important functions to host health, and our knowledge of what drives variation in the composition of these complex communities continues to grow. Microbiome studies at larger spatial scales present opportunities to evaluate the contribution of large-scale factors to variation in the microbiome. We conducted a large-scale field study to assess variation in the bacterial symbiont communities on adult frog skin (Pseudacris crucifer), characterized using 16S rRNA gene amplicon sequencing. We found that skin bacterial communities on frogs were less diverse than, and structurally distinct from, the surrounding habitat. Frog skin was typically dominated by one of two bacterial OTUs: at western sites, a Proteobacteria dominated the community, whereas eastern sites were dominated by an Actinobacteria. Using a metacommunity framework, we then sought to identify factors explaining small- and large-scale variation in community structure-that is, among hosts within a pond, and among ponds spanning the study transect. We focused on the presence of a fungal skin pathogen, Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd) as one potential driver of variation. We found no direct link between skin bacterial community structure and Bd infection status of individual frog hosts. Differences in pond-level community structure, however, were explained by Bd infection prevalence. Importantly, Bd infection prevalence itself was correlated with numerous other environmental factors; thus, skin bacterial diversity may be influenced by a complex suite of extrinsic factors. Our findings indicate that large-scale factors and processes merit consideration when seeking to understand microbiome diversity.


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