Diversity in growth patterns among strains of the lethal fungal pathogen Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis across extended thermal optima


The thermal sensitivities of organisms regulate a wide range of ecological interactions, including host-parasite dynamics. The effect of temperature on disease ecology can be remarkably complex in disease systems where the hosts are ectothermic and where thermal conditions constrain pathogen reproductive rates. Amphibian chytridiomycosis, caused by the pathogen Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd), is a lethal fungal disease that is influenced by temperature. However, recent temperature studies have produced contradictory findings, suggesting that our current understanding of thermal effects on Bd may be incomplete. We investigated how temperature affects three different Bd strains to evaluate diversity in thermal responses. We quantified growth across the entire thermal range of Bd, and beyond the known thermal limits (T-max and T-min). Our results show that all Bd strains remained viable and grew following 24 h freeze (-12 degrees C) and heat shock (28 degrees C) treatments. Additionally, we found that two Bd strains had higher logistic growth rates (r) and carrying capacities (K) at the upper and lower extremities of the temperature range, and especially in low temperature conditions (2-3 degrees C). In contrast, a third strain exhibited relatively lower growth rates and carrying capacities at these same thermal extremes. Overall, our results suggest that there is considerable variation among Bd strains in thermal tolerance, and they establish a new thermal sensitivity profile for Bd. More generally, our findings point toward important questions concerning the mechanisms that dictate fungal thermal tolerances and temperature-dependent pathogenesis in other fungal disease systems.



Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, Amphibian chytridiomycosis, Disease ecology, Psychrophilic fungi, Temperature