Becker, Matthew H., Richards-Zawacki, Corinne, Gratwicke, Brian, and Belden, Lisa K. 2014. "The effect of captivity on the cutaneous bacterial community of the critically endangered Panamanian golden frog (Atelopus zeteki)." Biological Conservation 176:199-206. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.biocon.2014.05.029
For many threatened vertebrates, captivity may be the only option for species survival. Maintaining species in captivity prior to reintroduction presents many challenges, including the need to preserve genetic diversity and mitigation of disease risks. Recent studies suggest that captivity can alter the suite of symbiotic microbes that play important roles in host health. The Panamanian golden frog (Atelopus zeteki) has not been seen in its native habitat in Panamá since 2009. Along with habitat loss and illegal collecting, the lethal disease chytridiomycosis, caused by the fungal pathogen Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd), is responsible for the severe decline of this species. Prior to the spread of Bd into golden frog habitat, conservation organizations collected golden frogs and placed them in captive survival assurance colonies. The skin of amphibians is host to a diverse resident bacterial community, which acts as a defense mechanism in some amphibians to inhibit pathogens. We characterized the cutaneous bacterial community from wild and F1 captive golden frogs originating from the same population with Illumina sequencing to assess how long-term captivity has affected this community. We found that species richness, phylogenetic diversity, and community structure of the skin microbiota was significantly different between wild and captive golden frogs. However, after approximately eight years of living in captivity, the offspring of the original captive golden frogs still shared 70% of their microbial community with wild frogs. These results demonstrate that host-associated microbial communities can be significantly altered by captive management, but most of the community composition can be preserved.