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Captivity, reintroductions, and the rewilding of amphibian-associated bacterial communities

May 23, 2023

Many studies have noted differences in microbes associated with animals reared in captivity compared to their wild counterparts, but few studies have examined how microbes change when animals are reintroduced to the wild after captive rearing. As captive assurance populations and reintroduction programs increase, a better understanding of how microbial symbionts respond during animal translocations is critical. We examined changes in microbes associated with boreal toads (Anaxyrus boreas), a threatened amphibian, after reintroduction to the wild following captive rearing. Previous studies demonstrate that developmental life stage is an important factor in amphibian microbiomes. We collected 16S marker-gene sequencing datasets to investigate: (i) comparisons of the skin, mouth, and fecal bacteria of boreal toads across four developmental life stages in captivity and the wild, (ii) tadpole skin bacteria before and after reintroduction to the wild, and (iii) adult skin bacteria during reintroduction to the wild. We demonstrated that differences occur across skin, fecal, and mouth bacterial communities in captive versus wild boreal toads, and that the degree of difference depends on developmental stage. Skin bacterial communities from captive tadpoles were more similar to their wild counterparts than captive post-metamorphic individuals were to their wild counterparts. When captive-reared tadpoles were introduced to a wild site, their skin bacteria changed rapidly to resemble wild tadpoles. Similarly, the skin bacterial communities of reintroduced adult boreal toads also shifted to resemble those of wild toads. Our results indicate that a clear microbial signature of captivity in amphibians does not persist after release into natural habitat.

Publication Year 2023
Title Captivity, reintroductions, and the rewilding of amphibian-associated bacterial communities
DOI 10.1007/s00248-023-02229-3
Authors Timothy Korpita, Erin L. Muths, Mary Kay Watry, Valerie J. McKenzie
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Microbial Ecology
Index ID 70248124
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Fort Collins Science Center