A Meta-analysis Reveals Temperature, Dose, Life Stage, and Taxonomy Influence Host Susceptibility to a Fungal Parasite

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amphibian declines, Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, chytridiomycosis, disease ecology, dose response, experimental design, life stage effects, meta-analysis, thermal mismatches

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Complex ecological relationships, such as host–parasite interactions, are often modeled with laboratory experiments. However, some experimental laboratory conditions, such as temperature or infection dose, are regularly chosen based on convenience or convention, and it is unclear how these decisions systematically affect experimental outcomes. Here, we conducted a meta-analysis of 58 laboratory studies that exposed amphibians to the pathogenic fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd) to understand better how laboratory temperature, host life stage, infection dose, and host species affect host mortality. We found that host mortality was driven by thermal mismatches: hosts native to cooler environments experienced greater Bd-induced mortality at relatively warm experimental temperatures and vice versa. We also found that Bd dose positively predicted Bd-induced host mortality and that the superfamilies Bufonoidea and Hyloidea were especially susceptible to Bd. Finally, the effect of Bd on host mortality varied across host life stages, with larval amphibians experiencing lower risk of Bd-induced mortality than adults or metamorphs. Metamorphs were especially susceptible and experienced mortality when inoculated with much smaller Bd doses than the average dose used by researchers. Our results suggest that when designing experiments on species interactions, researchers should carefully consider the experimental temperature, inoculum dose, and life stage, and taxonomy of the host species.

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Ecology, v. 101, issue 4, art. e02979