Abstract

Pathogens can have a range of effects on organisms across environmental gradients; although lethal effects may receive greater attention, sublethal impacts can have important population- and community-level impacts. In this laboratory study, we examined the effects of exposure to the amphibian chytrid fungus (Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis [Bd]) on Northern Leopard Frog (Lithobates pipiens) metamorphs that had been reared in the presence or absence of crayfish (Orconectes rusticus) predators in aquatic environments to determine whether prior predator exposure influenced the effect of Bd on terrestrial growth and survival of frogs. Although Bd exposure following metamorphosis did not impact Northern Leopard Frog survival, exposure did significantly reduce terrestrial growth, indicating that Bd exposure can have consequences that can indirectly impact populations, because size of amphibians is positively correlated with overwinter survival and fecundity. Exposure to predators during larval development, however, did not alter the impact of Bd exposure at metamorphosis on Northern Leopard Frogs. Our study suggests the Bd pathogen associated with global amphibian declines can have important sublethal impacts and play a role in population dynamics even when disease outbreaks do not occur.

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