North American amphibians have recently been impacted by two major emerging pathogens, the fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd) and iridoviruses in the genus Ranavirus (Rv). Environmental, seasonal and host factors may play important roles in disease dynamics, but few studies incorporate these components into their analyses. Here, we investigated the role of environmental, seasonal, genetic and location effects on driving Bd and Rv infection prevalence and severity in a biodiversity hot spot, the southeastern United States. We used quantitative PCR to characterize Bd and Rv dynamics in natural populations of three amphibian species: Notophthalmus perstriatus, Hyla squirella and Pseudacris ornata and more broadly in multi-species amphibian communities across Florida. We combined pathogen data, genetic and host metrics, and seasonal and environmental variables into statistical models to evaluate how these factors impact infectious disease dynamics. Occurrence, prevalence and intensity of Bd and Rv varied across species, populations, and sites. Pseudacris ornata was found to have high levels of Bd across sites. In Florida, both pathogens were found ubiquitously across sites and seasons and at high levels within three different host families. We conclude that Bd and Rv are more abundant in the southeastern United States than previously thought and that host, seasonal and environmental factors are all important for predicting amphibian pathogen dynamics. Incorporating seasonal, host and environmental information into conservation plans for amphibians is necessary for the development of more effective management strategies to mitigate the impact of emerging infectious diseases.
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Master of Science (M.S.)
College of Sciences
Length of Campus-only Access
Masters Thesis (Open Access)
Horner, Ariel, "Ribbeting Results: Emergent Infectious Diseases in Wetland Systems" (2019). Electronic Theses and Dissertations, 2004-2019. 6873.