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Infection status as the basis for habitat choices in a wild amphibian

Citation

Barrile, Gabriel; Chalfoun, Anna; Walters, Annika (2020), Infection status as the basis for habitat choices in a wild amphibian, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.d2547d81f

Abstract

Animals challenged with disease may select specific habitat conditions that help prevent or reduce infection. Whereas pre-infection avoidance of habitats with a high risk of disease exposure has been documented in both captive and free-ranging animals, evidence of post-infection habitat switching to conditions that promote the clearing of infection is limited to laboratory experiments. The extent to which wild animals proximately modify habitat choices in response to infection status therefore remains unclear. We investigated pre-infection behavioral avoidance and post-infection habitat switching using wild, radio-tracked boreal toads (Anaxyrus boreas boreas) in a population challenged with Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd); a pathogenic fungus responsible for a catastrophic panzootic affecting hundreds of amphibian species worldwide. Boreal toads did not preemptively avoid microhabitats with conditions conducive to Bd growth. Infected individuals, however, selected warmer, more open habitats, which were associated with elevated body temperature and the subsequent clearing of infection. Our results suggest that disease can comprise an important selective pressure on animal habitat and space use. Habitat selection models therefore may be greatly improved by including variables that quantify infection risk and/or the infection status of individuals through time.

Funding

Wyoming Game and Fish Department, Award: 1003570-13403

Wyoming Game and Fish Department, Award: 1003570-13403