Dragonfly naiads as potential reservoir hosts for the infectious amphibian chytrid fungus, Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis
One way pathogen prevalence is maintained is by persistence within reservoir host species. Reservoir hosts are species that do not show any signs of disease when a pathogen infects them. As a result, the pathogen survives and is able to remain in the host population. Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd) is a chytrid fungus that has caused extensive amphibian declines. It has been suspected that reservoir hosts are a key to Bd remaining in certain amphibian populations. I studied dragonfly naiads (Anisoptera spp.), the aquatic life cycle stage immediately following hatching and preceding the emergence of wings, as potential reservoir hosts for Bd on the Mogollon Rim in Arizona. On the Mogollon Rim winter temperatures fall below the optimal thermal range for Bd. Boreal chorus frogs (Pseudacris maculata), the most common amphibian species on the Rim, maintain subzero body temperatures to survive the winter. Since the optimal thermal range for Bd is between 4°C and 25°C, it is unlikely that Bd can grow on the skin of these frogs during winter. As a result, it is unknown how Bd prevalence is maintained in the area. Recent studies showed that Bd can grow in non-amphibian hosts. I hypothesized that Bd could grow within the digestive tracts of dragonfly naiads, since they stay in the water and don’t maintain subzero body temperatures during the cold winters on the Rim. Non-native and native naiads were both included in this study; the non-native naiads were purchased from a company in California while the native naiads were captured from ponds on the Mogollon Rim. The digestive tracts of the naiads were then dissected, and the DNA was extracted using an animal tissue spin-column protocol. The extracted DNA was analyzed by qPCR. The qPCR analysis of the native and non-native dragonfly naiads revealed that the samples were either Bd-negative or very weakly Bd-positive, with most being the former. Based on these results, it does not appear that naiads are biologically significant reservoir hosts for Bd.