Snake fungal disease alters skin bacterial and fungal diversity in an endangered rattlesnake

Matthew C. Allender, Sarah Baker, Megan Britton, Angela D. Kent

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Snake Fungal Disease (SFD), caused by Ophidiomyces ophiodiicola, is the most recently described fungal disease afflicting wildlife populations across North America and Europe. It has been proposed as a significant conservation threat yielding high mortality and yet much its ecology is unknown. We collected 144 skin swabs from Eastern Massasaugas (Sistrurus catenatus) in 2015 and 2016 to determine document ongoing prevalence and assess differences in microbial assemblages between positive and negative individuals. Alpha diversity of fungi was reduced in SFD positive animals, while beta diversity identified distinct assemblages of microbes between SFD–positive and –negative samples. Ophidiomyces was present on the skin of affected animals, even on body sites distant to lesions indicating that the microbiome on entire surface of the skin is altered. Ophidiomyces was not detected in any non-SFD snake. There were smaller, but significant, influences of year sampled. Bacterial genera Janthinobacterium and Serratia were significantly increased in SFD snakes, while Xylanimicrobium, Cellulosimicrobium, and Rhodococcus were the only bacterial taxa significantly reduced. The relative abundance of fungi within the orders Pleosporales and Canopdiales was reduced in SFD-positive samples, though Pyrenochaetopsis pratorum was the only species found to differ significantly. This is the first study to determine the impact that this fungal pathogen has on the skin microbiome.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number12147
JournalScientific reports
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 1 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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