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2014 Abstracts

Frog Behavior May Protect Against Potentially Lethal Chytriodiomycosis

Hailey Shepherd, Dixie State University

Life Sciences

Previous studies of canyon tree frogs (Hyla arenicolor) in Zion National Park have shown that some populations test positive for a dangerous fungus in the Chytridiomycosis family. This fungus has been linked to large population losses worldwide in many keystone amphibian species, but appears to have no effect on populations of H. arenicolor. Since Chytrid fungal growth is inhibited at high temperatures, we hypothesized the frogs are able to rid themselves of the fungus because they bask in the sun. During the summer of 2013 we swabbed frogs in multiple slot canyons to test for the presence of the fungus. We also recorded skin temperatures of the frogs we swabbed. Skin temperatures were as high as 38 C°, which is above the previously established lethal threshold of 28 C° for Chytridiomycosis. Our data support the idea that these frogs may be able to rid themselves of infection by allowing skin temperatures to raise enough to become intolerable for this fungus. This is the first known evidence of wild amphibian populations showing a behavior that may clear the infection. If further research supports these findings, it could lead to more effective allocation of limited conservation resources.