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Richer parasite diversity leads to healthier frogs, says University of Colorado study
Date:5/21/2012

Increases in the diversity of parasites that attack amphibians cause a decrease in the infection success rate of virulent parasites, including one that causes malformed limbs and premature death, says a new University of Colorado Boulder study.

According to CU-Boulder Assistant Professor Pieter Johnson, scientists are concerned about how changes in biodiversity affect the risk of infectious diseases in humans and wildlife. Charting the relationships between parasites and amphibians is important since few studies have examined the influence of parasite diversity on disease, and the fact that amphibians are declining faster than any group of animals on the planet due to human activities like habitat loss, pollution and emerging diseases, Johnson said.

In the new study, the team sampled 134 California ponds for the parasites, known as trematodes, comparing their abundance and distribution with the health of more than 2,000 Pacific chorus frogs. The CU team combined the field studies with extensive lab experiments that charted the health of the frogs in the presence of different combinations of the six most common amphibian parasites, including the Ribeiroia group whose larvae burrow into tadpole limb regions and form cysts that disrupt normal frog and toad leg development, causing extra or missing limbs.

The new study showed when the chorus frogs were exposed to all six trematode types simultaneously, the infection success rate was 42 percent lower than for frogs exposed to only a single species of parasite. "Our results show increases in parasite diversity consistently cause a decrease in infection success by the most virulent parasite," said Johnson of the ecology and evolutionary biology department.

A paper by Johnson and co-author Jason Hoverman, a CU-Boulder postdoctoral researcher, appears in this week's issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The project was funded by grants from
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Contact: Pieter Johnson
pieter.johnson@colorado.edu
303-492-5623
University of Colorado at Boulder
Source:Eurekalert  

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