Dietary carotenoid supplementation has long-term and community-wide effects on the amphibian skin microbiome

Publication Name

Molecular Ecology


The amphibian skin microbiome plays a crucial role in host immunity and pathogen defence, yet we know little about the environmental drivers of skin microbial variation across host individuals. Inter-individual variation in the availability of micro-nutrients such as dietary carotenoids, which are involved in amphibian immunity, may be one factor that influences skin microbial assembly across different life history stages. We compared the effect of four carotenoid supplementation regimes during different life stages on the adult skin microbiome using a captive population of the critically endangered southern corroboree frog, Pseudophryne corroboree. We applied 16S rRNA sequencing paired with joint-species distribution models to examine the effect of supplementation on taxon abundances. We found that carotenoid supplementation had subtle yet taxonomically widespread effects on the skin microbiome, even 4.5 years post supplementation. Supplementation during any life-history stage tended to have a positive effect on the number of bacterial taxa detected, although explanatory power was low. Some genera were sensitive to supplementation pre-metamorphosis, but most demonstrated either additive or dominant effects, whereby supplementation during one life history stage had intermediate or similar effects, respectively, to supplementation across life. Carotenoid supplementation increased abundances of taxa belonging to lactic acid bacteria, including Lactococcus and Enterococcus, a group of bacteria that have previously been linked to protection against the amphibian fungal pathogen Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd). While the fitness benefits of these microbial shifts require further study, these results suggest a fundamental relationship between nutrition and the amphibian skin microbiome which may be critical to amphibian health and the development of novel conservation strategies.

Open Access Status

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Funding Number


Funding Sponsor

Australian Research Council



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