Microbiota and skin defense peptides may facilitate coexistence of two sympatric Andean frog species with a lethal pathogen.


Management of hyper-virulent generalist pathogens is an emergent global challenge, yet for most disease systems we lack a basic understanding as to why some host species suffer mass mortalities, while others resist epizootics. We studied two sympatric species of frogs from the Colombian Andes, which coexist with the amphibian pathogen Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd), to understand why some species did not succumb to the infection. We found high Bd prevalence in juveniles for both species, yet infection intensities remained low. We also found that bacterial community composition and host defense peptides are specific to amphibian life stages. We detected abundant Bd-inhibitory skin bacteria across life stages and Bd-inhibitory defense peptides post-metamorphosis in both species. Bd-inhibitory bacteria were proportionally more abundant in adults of both species than in earlier developmental stages. We tested for activity of peptides against the skin microbiota and found that in general peptides did not negatively affect bacterial growth and in some instances facilitated growth. Our results suggest that symbiotic bacteria and antimicrobial peptides may be co-selected for, and that together they contribute to the ability of Andean amphibian species to coexist with the global pandemic lineage of Bd.