Population genetic structure and disease in montane boreal toads: more heterozygous individuals are more likely to be infected with amphibian chytrid

Brett R. Addis, Winsor H. Lowe, Blake R. Hossack, Fred W. Allendorf

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Amphibians are more threatened than any other vertebrate group, with 41 % of species classified as threatened. The causes of most declines are not well understood, though many declines have been linked to disease. Additionally, amphibians are physiologically constrained to moist habitats and considered poor dispersers; thus, they may suffer genetic consequences of population isolation. To understand threats to the persistence of boreal toads (Bufo boreas) in Glacier National Park, USA, we genotyped 551 individuals at 11 microsatellite loci and used Bayesian clustering methods to describe population genetic structure and identify barriers to gene flow. We found evidence of two primary genetic groups that differed substantially in elevation and two secondary groups within the high elevation group. There was also evidence of further substructure within the southern high elevation group, suggesting mountain ridges are barriers to gene flow at local scales. Overall, genetic variation was high, but allelic richness declined with increasing elevation, reflecting greater isolation or smaller effective population sizes of high altitude populations. We tested for Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd), the fungal pathogen which causes chytridiomycosis, and we found that 35 of 199 toads were positive for Bd. Unexpectedly, more heterozygous individuals were more likely to be infected. This suggests that dispersal facilitates the spread of disease because heterozygosity may be highest where dispersal and gene flow are greatest.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)833-844
Number of pages12
JournalConservation Genetics
Volume16
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Aug 3 2015

Keywords

  • Chytridiomycosis
  • Elevation
  • Genetic variation
  • Mountains

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