University of Melbourne
Twitter: @that_frog_gorl Instagram: dani_k_wallace Danielle Wallace is a herpetologist and PhD candidate in the One Health Research Group at the University of Melbourne. Her current research focuses on the impact of the devastating disease, amphibian chytrid fungus, on reproduction and breeding display in Victorian frogs. She also works as a wildlife ecologist conducting surveys for threatened species in remote forest areas.
Lovesick? The effect of chytrid fungus infection on amphibian breeding display
The devastating amphibian chytrid fungus – caused by the fungal pathogen, Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, (Bd) – has caused widespread amphibian declines and extirpations. Although the development of disease been examined in a range of species, little is known about its effect on reproduction. Here, we investigated how chytrid fungus affects male mating display in the critically endangered Alpine Tree Frog (Litoria verreauxii alpina). We collected call recordings of wild frogs in the field and used a spectrophotometer to analyse male breeding colouration, while swabbing all individuals for infection. We then analysed the call characteristics and colour profiles of infected and uninfected frogs to determine whether infection influenced calling performance and breeding colouration. We found that colouration in Alpine Tree Frogs was affected by chytrid fungus, with UV chroma increasing with infection status and load. These are the first results to show that chytrid fungus influences male breeding colouration. Calling performance was also closely linked to temperature variations within different amphibian microhabitats. The results that we present here are important but often overlooked aspects of disease ecology. We have shown that sublethal effects of disease can impact breeding behaviour and display. These changes in reproduction and breeding success in response to disease might have dramatic consequences on population trajectories and substantially influence population decline or recovery potential. It is therefore crucial that we investigate sublethal effects of infection and its influence on reproduction and recruitment, so that we can understand the impact of disease on populations.