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Rethinking the role of invertebrate hosts in the life cycle of the amphibian chytridiomycosis pathogen


The amphibian pathogen Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd) has recently emerged as a primary factor behind declining global amphibian populations. Much about the basic biology of the pathogen is unknown, however, such as its true ecological niche and life cycle. Here we evaluated invertebrates as infection models by inoculating host species that had previously been suggested to be parasitized in laboratory settings: crayfish (Procambarus alleni) and nematodes (Caenorhabditis elegans). We found neither negative effects on either host nor evidence of persistent infection despite using higher inoculum loads and more pathogen genotypes than tested in previous studies. In contrast, addition of Bd to C. elegans cultures had a slight positive effect on host growth. Bd DNA was detected on the carapace of 2/34 crayfish 7 weeks post-inoculation, suggesting some means of persistence in the mesocosm. These results question the role of invertebrates as alternative hosts of Bd and their ability to modulate disease dynamics.

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*Corresponding author: Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Michigan, 830 N. University, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI 48109, USA. E-mail:
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