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Data from: Rich resource environment of fish farms facilitates phenotypic variation and virulence in an opportunistic fish pathogen

Cite this dataset

Pulkkinen, Katja et al. (2022). Data from: Rich resource environment of fish farms facilitates phenotypic variation and virulence in an opportunistic fish pathogen [Dataset]. Dryad.


Phenotypic variation is suggested to facilitate the persistence of environmentally growing pathogens under environmental change. Here we hypothesized that the intensive farming environment induces higher phenotypic variation in microbial pathogens than natural environment, because of high stochasticity for growth and stronger survival selection compared to the natural environment. We tested the hypothesis with an opportunistic fish pathogen Flavobacterium columnare isolated either from fish farms or from natural waters. We measured growth parameters of two morphotypes from all isolates in different resource concentrations and two temperatures relevant for the occurrence of disease epidemics at farms and tested their virulence using a zebrafish (Danio rerio) infection model. According to our hypothesis, isolates originating from the fish farms had higher phenotypic variation in growth between the morphotypes than the isolates from natural waters. The difference was more pronounced in higher resource concentrations and the higher temperature, suggesting that phenotypic variation is driven by the exploitation of increased outside-host resources at farms. Phenotypic variation of virulence was not observed based on isolate origin but only based on morphotype. However, when in contact with the larger fish, the less virulent morphotype of some of the isolates also had high virulence. As the less virulent morphotype also had higher growth rate in outside-host resources, the results suggest that both morphotypes can contribute to F. columnare epidemics at fish farms, especially with current prospects of warming temperatures. Our results suggest that higher phenotypic variation per se does not lead to higher virulence, but that environmental conditions at fish farms could select isolates with high phenotypic variation in bacterial population and hence affect evolution in F. columnare at fish farms. Our results highlight the multifaceted effects of human-induced environmental alterations in shaping epidemiology and evolution in microbial pathogens.


Usage notes

The archived data comprises three data files: growth.xlsx, morphotype_stability.xlsx and challenge_test.xlsx and a README-file with infromation on data collection and lists of variables.


Centre of Excellence in Biological Interactions, Award: 252411

Finnish Cultural Foundation

Academy of Finland, Award: 266879

Academy of Finland, Award: 304615

Academy of Finland, Award: 7128888

Academy of Finland, Award: 314939

Jane and Aatos Erkko Foundation