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Boston University biologists discover amphibian eggs use defenses against water molds

(Boston) -- 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 steri
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Contact: Kira Edler
kedler@bu.edu
617-358-1240
Boston University
19-Oct-2006


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