Disease and the Drying Pond: Examining Possible Links among Drought, Immune Function, and Disease Development in Amphibians.


Drought can heavily impact aquatic ecosystems. For amphibian species that rely on water availability for larval development, drought can have direct and indirect effects on larval survival and postmetamorphic fitness. Some amphibian species can accelerate the timing of metamorphosis to escape drying habitats through developmental plasticity. However, trade-offs associated with premature metamorphosis, such as reduced body size and altered immune function in the recently metamorphosed individual, may have downstream effects on susceptibility to disease. Here, we review the physiological mechanisms driving patterns in larval amphibian development under low water conditions. Specifically, we discuss drought-induced accelerated metamorphosis and how it may alter immune function, predisposing juvenile amphibians to infectious disease. In addition, we consider how these physiological and immunological adjustments could play out in a lethal disease system, amphibian chytridiomycosis. Last, we propose avenues for future research that adopt an ecoimmunological approach to evaluate the combined threats of drought and disease for amphibian populations.