Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Biologists discover amphibian eggs use defenses against water molds

Protective jelly layers and hatching early help embryos avoid dangerous molds

Boston University (BU) scientists have discovered that several species of amphibians use defense mechanisms to protect themselves against deadly water molds found in vernal pools of New England. Using both field observations and laboratory experiments, Ivan Gomez-Mestre, a research associate in Professor Karen Warkentin's laboratory in the Department of Biology at BU, describes the various methods used by the spotted salamander, wood frog, and American toad to help avoid and survive water mold infections. The results appear in the October issue of the journal Ecology.

"Certain water molds cause substantial mortality for aquatic eggs of a wide range of fish and amphibian species throughout the world," said Dr. Gomez-Mestre. "The observations and results of this study demonstrate that there are both parental and embryonic-stage traits that defend egg clusters against water mold infections in three species of amphibians found in the Northeast."

In the Northeast, vernal pools fill with the rising water table of fall and winter or with the melting and runoff of winter and spring snow and rain. Many vernal pools in the region are covered with ice in the winter months and contain water during spring and early summer. Typically by late summer, most pools are completely dry.

To assess the incidence and impact of water mold on eggs of the three study species, Gomez-Mestre and the team – which included Dr. Warkentin and Justin Touchon, a graduate student in the Warkentin lab – surveyed nine vernal pools in Lynn Woods Reservation (Lynn, MA) in spring 2005. The team surveyed the ponds twice weekly from late-March through early-June before the pools dried for the summer. All egg clutches found were flagged and monitored until they hatched except for several that were collected for laboratory experiments.

In order to determine the presence or absence of water molds in the ponds, the researchers sank five tea bags filled with sterilized hemp seeds into each pond as water mold baits. After 10 days, the bags were retrieved and plated on a sterilized cornmeal agar medium on Petri dishes and grown in incubators. Water mold was found in all ponds surveyed. Eight of the nine had high infection rates, with 66 – 86 percent of baits infected, but baits from the largest pond with the thickest tree canopy and the lowest temperature showed only 16 percent infection rate.

"We visually estimated the degree of mold infection within each clutch and considered clutches to be infected when mold had grown over 5 percent or more of the clutch and increased over subsequent observations," said Touchon.

According to the results, all three amphibian species display behaviors that help protect them from or survive infections by water molds. These defense mechanisms are carried out either by the adult females when laying eggs or by the developing embryos themselves.

Spotted salamanders wrap their eggs in a protective jelly layer that prevents mold from reaching the embryos. Wood frog egg clusters have less jelly, but are laid while ponds are still cold and mold growth is slow. Eggs of the American toad experience the highest mold infection levels since they are surrounded by only a thin jelly coating and laid when ponds have warmed and mold grows rapidly. However, eggs of all three species are capable of hatching early if mold reaches them and this response was strongest in the American toads. Toad embryos hatched as much as 36 percent prematurely, before they could even move, suggesting accelerated development and the use of enzymes to aid hatching.

"This is quite a dramatic change. If you compared it to humans, this would be like a six months premature baby," said Warkentin.

In the case of the salamanders, early hatching occurred only after the protective jelly coating was removed in the lab and mold was able to reach the eggs. Although this jelly works well as an anti-mold defense for spotted salamanders near Boston, in upstate New York the species suffers high mortality from water mold infections.

"We don't yet know if the mold is different in Boston, or the eggs," said Gomez-Mestre.

Another interesting finding from the study is despite being potential toad hatchling predators, wood frog tadpoles can have a positive effect on toad eggs by eating mold off infected toad clutches which increases their survival rates.

Water molds are a common threat for aquatic embryos, but the study species all demonstrated traits that function to reduce the risk of infection, as well as responses once infection occurs. Parental traits, including breeding early in the year or providing eggs with a protective jelly, decrease the risk of infection to a clutch while hatching early enables embryos to escape a clutch already infected with mold.

"These defenses appear to reduce the overall impact of water mold, so that massive egg mortality is normally associated with a several stressors. Furthermore, interactions with other species may further reduce mortality rates of infected clutches," explained Gomez-Mestre. "The impact of water molds on a given species therefore depends not only on the effectiveness of the its own defenses, but also on the community composition and the ecological interactions at work in the pool."

Kira Edler | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Dispersal of Fish Eggs by Water Birds – Just a Myth?
19.02.2018 | Universität Basel

nachricht Removing fossil fuel subsidies will not reduce CO2 emissions as much as hoped
08.02.2018 | International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Researchers Discover New Anti-Cancer Protein

An international team of researchers has discovered a new anti-cancer protein. The protein, called LHPP, prevents the uncontrolled proliferation of cancer cells in the liver. The researchers led by Prof. Michael N. Hall from the Biozentrum, University of Basel, report in “Nature” that LHPP can also serve as a biomarker for the diagnosis and prognosis of liver cancer.

The incidence of liver cancer, also known as hepatocellular carcinoma, is steadily increasing. In the last twenty years, the number of cases has almost doubled...

Im Focus: Researchers at Fraunhofer monitor re-entry of Chinese space station Tiangong-1

In just a few weeks from now, the Chinese space station Tiangong-1 will re-enter the Earth's atmosphere where it will to a large extent burn up. It is possible that some debris will reach the Earth's surface. Tiangong-1 is orbiting the Earth uncontrolled at a speed of approx. 29,000 km/h.Currently the prognosis relating to the time of impact currently lies within a window of several days. The scientists at Fraunhofer FHR have already been monitoring Tiangong-1 for a number of weeks with their TIRA system, one of the most powerful space observation radars in the world, with a view to supporting the German Space Situational Awareness Center and the ESA with their re-entry forecasts.

Following the loss of radio contact with Tiangong-1 in 2016 and due to the low orbital height, it is now inevitable that the Chinese space station will...

Im Focus: Alliance „OLED Licht Forum“ – Key partner for OLED lighting solutions

Fraunhofer Institute for Organic Electronics, Electron Beam and Plasma Technology FEP, provider of research and development services for OLED lighting solutions, announces the founding of the “OLED Licht Forum” and presents latest OLED design and lighting solutions during light+building, from March 18th – 23rd, 2018 in Frankfurt a.M./Germany, at booth no. F91 in Hall 4.0.

They are united in their passion for OLED (organic light emitting diodes) lighting with all of its unique facets and application possibilities. Thus experts in...

Im Focus: Mars' oceans formed early, possibly aided by massive volcanic eruptions

Oceans formed before Tharsis and evolved together, shaping climate history of Mars

A new scenario seeking to explain how Mars' putative oceans came and went over the last 4 billion years implies that the oceans formed several hundred million...

Im Focus: Tiny implants for cells are functional in vivo

For the first time, an interdisciplinary team from the University of Basel has succeeded in integrating artificial organelles into the cells of live zebrafish embryos. This innovative approach using artificial organelles as cellular implants offers new potential in treating a range of diseases, as the authors report in an article published in Nature Communications.

In the cells of higher organisms, organelles such as the nucleus or mitochondria perform a range of complex functions necessary for life. In the networks of...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Industry & Economy
Event News

Virtual reality conference comes to Reutlingen

19.03.2018 | Event News

Ultrafast Wireless and Chip Design at the DATE Conference in Dresden

16.03.2018 | Event News

International Tinnitus Conference of the Tinnitus Research Initiative in Regensburg

13.03.2018 | Event News

Latest News

Modular safety concept increases flexibility in plant conversion

22.03.2018 | Trade Fair News

New interactive map shows climate change everywhere in world

22.03.2018 | Earth Sciences

New technologies and computing power to help strengthen population data

22.03.2018 | Earth Sciences

Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>