Variation in Individual Temperature Preferences, Not Behavioural Fever, Affects Susceptibility to Chytridiomycosis in Amphibians

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thermoregulation, behavioural fever, amphibian declines, Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, disease ecology, thermal biology

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The ability of wildlife populations to mount rapid responses to novel pathogens will be critical for mitigating the impacts of disease outbreaks in a changing climate. Field studies have documented that amphibians preferring warmer temperatures are less likely to be infected with the fungal pathogen Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd). However, it is unclear whether this phenomenon is driven by behavioural fever or natural variation in thermal preference. Here, we placed frogs in thermal gradients, tested for temperature preferences and measured Bd growth, prevalence, and the survival of infected animals. Although there was significant individual- and species-level variation in temperature preferences, we found no consistent evidence of behavioural fever across five frog species. Interestingly, for species that preferred warmer temperatures, the preferred temperatures of individuals were negatively correlated with Bd growth on hosts, while the opposite correlation was true for species preferring cooler temperatures. Our results suggest that variation in thermal preference, but not behavioural fever, might shape the outcomes of Bd infections for individuals and populations, potentially resulting in selection for individual hosts and host species whose temperature preferences minimize Bd growth and enhance host survival during epidemics.

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Proceedings of the Royal Society B, v. 285, art. 20181111