The pathogenic chytrid fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, which causes the disease chytridiomycosis, has been implicated in declines of amphibian populations throughout the world, including declines and extinctions of local populations of mountain yellow-legged frogs, Rana muscosa, in the California Sierra Nevada. Previous studies have shown B. dendrobatidis achieves its maximum growth rate in culture in the temperature range of 17–25 C, and exposure to very high temperatures can clear frogs of B. dendrobatidis infection. Here we present the results of a laboratory experiment in which experimentally infected R. muscosa tadpoles were followed through metamorphosis at temperatures of 17 and 22 C. All infected animals developed clinical disease within a similar time frame. However, frogs housed at 22 C exhibited a significantly lower mortality than those housed at 17 C. Within 35 days after metamorphosis, 50% of the frogs housed at 22 C died, while 95% of the frogs housed at 17 C died. Clinical signs subsided in the surviving frogs at 22 C, despite persistent infection. Because both temperatures are within the optimal thermal range for growth of B. dendrobatidis, we propose that the difference in outcome indicates the effect of temperature on the host's resistance to chytridiomycosis, rather than an effect on the fungus alone.
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Vol. 44 • No. 3