Geographic variation in bacterial assemblages on cane toad skin is influenced more by local environments than by evolved changes in host traits

Chava L. Weitzman, Mirjam Kaestli, Alea Rose, Cameron M. Hudson, Karen Gibb, Gregory P. Brown, Richard Shine, Keith Christian

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Bacterial assemblages on amphibian skin may play an important role in protecting hosts against infection. In hosts that occur over a range of environments, geographic variation in composition of bacterial assemblages might be due to direct effects of local factors and/or to evolved characteristics of the host. Invasive cane toads (Rhinella marina) are an ideal candidate to evaluate environmental and genetic mechanisms, because toads have evolved major shifts in physiology, morphology, and behavior during their brief history in Australia. We used samples from free-ranging toads to quantify site-level differences in bacterial assemblages and a common-garden experiment to see if those differences disappeared when toads were raised under standardised conditions at one site. The large differences in bacterial communities on toads from different regions were not seen in offspring raised in a common environment. Relaxing bacterial clustering to operational taxonomic units in place of amplicon sequence variants likewise revealed high similarity among bacterial assemblages on toads in the common-garden study, and with free-ranging toads captured nearby. Thus, the marked geographic divergence in bacterial assemblages on wild-caught cane toads across their Australian invasion appears to result primarily from local environmental effects rather than evolved shifts in the host.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberbio059641
Pages (from-to)1-8
Number of pages8
JournalBiology Open
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2023

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