Frogs Say About It?
Majid Ali, M.D.
Emerging fungal pathogens pose a greater threat to
biodiversity than any other parasitic group1,
causing declines of many taxa, including bats,
corals, bees, snakes and amphibians1, 2, 3, 4.
Currently, there is little evidence that wild
animals can acquire resistance to these pathogens5. Batrachochytrium
a pathogenic fungus implicated in the recent global
decline of amphibians6.
Here we demonstrate that three species of amphibians
can acquire behavioural or immunological resistance
Frogs learned to avoid the fungus after just one B.
and temperature-induced clearance. In subsequent
experiments in which B.
was prevented, the number of previous exposures was
a negative predictor of B.
on frogs and B.
mortality, and was a positive predictor of
lymphocyte abundance and proliferation. These
results suggest that amphibians can acquire immunity
overcomes pathogen-induced immunosuppression7, 8, 9 and
increases their survival. Importantly, exposure to
dead fungus induced a similar magnitude of acquired
resistance as exposure to live fungus. Exposure of
frogs to B.
might offer a practical way to protect pathogen-naive
amphibians and facilitate the reintroduction of
amphibians to locations in the wild where B.
Moreover, given the conserved nature of vertebrate
immune responses to fungi5 and
the fact that many animals are capable of learning
to avoid natural enemies10,
these results offer hope that other wild animal taxa
threatened by invasive fungi might be rescued by
management approaches based on herd immunity.
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