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Date of Award

Summer 2011

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Department

Department of Biology

Abstract

Symbiosis is defined as two species living together. This association between organisms is present at all taxonomic levels making it a ubiquitious phenomenon in ecology and evolution. I studied symbiosis among three species: a mutualistic bacterium, a parasitic fungus and an amphibian host. The first goal of my research was to examine how the mutualistic bacteria of amphibians’ skin are acquired. I demonstrated that a cutaneous mutualistic bacterial species, Janthinobacterium lividum, was transmitted environmentally, via soil, to the skin of an amphibian species, Plethodon cinereus. These results indicate that amphibians’ mutualistic bacteria can be acquired from the environment. Based upon these results, I examined the use of soil bioaugmentation in amphibian disease prevention. I sought to determine if the environmental transmission of the mutualistic bacterial species J. lividum could mitigate parasite infection by the fungal pathogen Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis on the skin of an amphibian species, P. cinereus. Cutaneous infection by B. dendrobatidis in amphibians causes the disease chytridiomycosis, which has decimated amphibian populations and species worldwide. I found that the environmental transmission of J. lividum inhibited initial colonization by B. dendrobatidis on the skin of P. cinereus (p<0.05) five days post-infection. The use of bioaugmentation may be a feasible conservation strategy that could supplant treating amphibians individually and protect global amphibian biodiversity against declines driven by chytridiomycosis.

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