The skin-microbial community on amphibians plays a large role in maintaining the general health of the organism. One of the most common patterns found in amphibian skin microbiomes pertains to the antifungal aspect of these communities: beneficial microbes protect amphibians against harmful pathogenic fungi. The eastern red-backed salamander is one of the few amphibian species with well-documented skin microbes that produce antifungal compounds. These compounds are potentially lethal to chytrid fungus, one of the deadliest amphibian pathogens. The eastern red-backed salamander also has two primary color morphs that coexist over a large geographic range. Physiological differences between morphs have been well-documented across the range. However, morph differences in skin microbial community composition and relative abundance have not been explicitly looked at. In my study, I extracted whole-community DNA from skin skin swabs for six striped morph salamanders and four unstriped morphs. DNA was sequenced for 16S rRNA gene using Illumina MiSeq. Although I experienced a high rate of sequencing failure (60%), the results for one striped morph and three unstriped morphs are suggestive of different levels of microbial diversity between morphs. Unstriped morphs of P. cinereus had similar levels of both OTU abundance and diversity, while the striped morph had greater abundance of OTU’s, and significantly greater alpha diversity compared to the unstriped morph. Additional samples will be needed to confirm this pattern more broadly.
Dr. M. Caitlin Fisher-Reid, Thesis Advisor
Dr. Jennifer E. Mendell, Committee Member
Dr. Donald J. Padgett, Committee Member
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Original document was submitted as an Honors Program requirement. Copyright is held by the author.
St. John, Alyssa. (2021). Comparison of Skin Microbial Communities Between Striped and Unstriped Morphs of Plethodon cinereus in Massachusetts. In BSU Honors Program Theses and Projects. Item 493. Available at: https://vc.bridgew.edu/honors_proj/493
Copyright © 2021 Alyssa St. John