Hybridization of parasites can generate new genotypes with high virulence. The fungal amphibian parasite Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd) hybridizes in Brazil's Atlantic Forest, a biodiversity hotspot where amphibian declines have been linked to Bd, but the virulence of hybrid genotypes in native hosts has never been tested. We compared the virulence (measured as host mortality and infection burden) of hybrid Bd genotypes to the parental lineages, the putatively hypovirulent lineage Bd-Brazil and the hypervirulent Global Pandemic Lineage (Bd-GPL), in a panel of native Brazilian hosts. In Brachycephalus ephippium, the hybrid exceeded the virulence (host mortality) of both parents, suggesting that novelty arising from hybridization of Bd is a conservation concern. In Ischnocnema parva, host mortality in the hybrid treatment was intermediate between the parent treatments, suggesting that this species is more vulnerable to the aggressive phenotypes associated with Bd-GPL. Dendropsophus minutus showed low overall mortality, but infection burdens were higher in frogs treated with hybrid and Bd-GPL genotypes than with Bd-Brazil genotypes. Our experiment suggests that Bd hybrids have the potential to increase disease risk in native hosts. Continued surveillance is needed to track potential spread of hybrid genotypes and detect future genomic shifts in this dynamic disease system.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes