Skin bacterial communities of neotropical treefrogs vary with local environmental conditions at the time of sampling


The amphibian skin microbiome has been the focus of recent studies aiming to better understand the role of these microbial symbionts in host defense against disease. However, host-associated microbial communities are complex and dynamic, and changes in their composition and structure can influence their function. Understanding temporal variation of bacterial communities on amphibian skin is critical for establishing baselines from which to improve the development of mitigation techniques based on probiotic therapy and provides long-term host protection in a changing environment. Here, we investigated whether microbial communities on amphibian skin change over time at a single site. To examine this, we collected skin swabs from two pond-breeding species of treefrogs, Agalychnis callidryas and Dendropsophus ebraccatus, over 4 years at a single lowland tropical pond in Panama. Relative abundance of operational taxonomic units (OTUs) based on 16S rRNA gene amplicon sequencing was used to determine bacterial community diversity on the skin of both treefrog species. We found significant variation in bacterial community structure across long and short-term time scales. Skin bacterial communities differed across years on both species and between seasons and sampling days only in D. ebraccatus. Importantly, bacterial community structures across days were as variable as year level comparisons. The differences in bacterial community were driven primarily by differences in relative abundance of key OTUs and explained by rainfall at the time of sampling. These findings suggest that skin-associated microbiomes are highly variable across time, and that for tropical lowland sites, rainfall is a good predictor of variability. However, more research is necessary to elucidate the significance of temporal variation in bacterial skin communities and their maintenance for amphibian conservation efforts.



Amphibian skin microbiome, Rainfall, Neotropics, Temporal scale, Agalychnis callidryas, Dendropsophus ebraccatus, Lowlands, Temperature