Phenotypic Plasticity and Early Life Cycle Development of the Chytrid Fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis
The amphibian chytrid fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd) has captured human attention because it is a pathogen that has contributed to global amphibian declines. Despite increased research, much is still unknown about how it develops. For example, the fact that Bd exhibits phenotypic plasticity during development was only recently identified. In this thesis, the causes of phenotypic plasticity in Bd are tested by exposing the fungus to different substrates, including powdered frog skin and keratin, which seems to play an important role in the fungus's colonization of amphibian epidermis. A novel swelling structure emerging from Bd germlings developed when exposed to keratin and frog skin. This swelling has not been observed in Bd grown in laboratory cultures before, and it is possible that it is analogous to the germ tube Bd develops in vivo. Growth of the swelling suggests that keratin plays a role in the phenotypic plasticity expressed by Bd.