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Microclimate limits thermal behaviour favourable to disease control in a nocturnal amphibian

Journal Contribution - Journal Article

While epizootics increasingly affect wildlife, it remains poorly understood how the environment shapes most host-pathogen systems. Here, we employ a three-step framework to study microclimate influence on ectotherm host thermal behaviour, focusing on amphibian chytridiomycosis in fire salamanders (Salamandra salamandra) infected with the fungal pathogenBatrachochytrium salamandrivorans(Bsal). Laboratory trials reveal that innate variation in thermal preference, rather than behavioural fever, can inhibit infection and facilitate salamander recovery under humidity-saturated conditions. Yet, a 3-year field study and a mesocosm experiment close to the invasiveBsalrange show that microclimate constraints suppress host thermal behaviour favourable to disease control. A final mechanistic model, that estimates range-wide, year-round host body temperature relative to microclimate, suggests that these constraints are rule rather than exception. Our results demonstrate how innate host defences against epizootics may remain constrained in the wild, which predisposes to range-wide disease outbreaks and population declines.
Journal: Ecology Letters
ISSN: 1461-023X
Issue: 1
Volume: 24
Pages: 27 - 37
Publication year:2020
Keywords:Pure & applied ecology