Phylogenetic investigation of skin sloughing rates in frogs: Relationships with skin characteristics and disease-driven declines

Michel E.B. Ohmer, Rebecca L. Cramp, Craig R. White, Peter S. Harlow, Michael S. McFadden, Andrés Merino-Viteri, Allan P. Pessier, Nicholas C. Wu, Phillip J. Bishop, Craig E. Franklin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


Amphibian skin is highly variable in structure and function across anurans, and plays an important role in physiological homeostasis and immune defence. For example, skin sloughing has been shown to reduce pathogen loads on the skin, such as the lethal fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd), but interspecific variation in sloughing frequency is largely unknown. Using phylogenetic linear mixed models, we assessed the relationship between skin turnover rate, skin morphology, ecological traits and overall evidence of Bd-driven declines. We examined skin sloughing rates in 21 frog species from three continents, as well as structural skin characteristics measured from preserved specimens. We found that sloughing rate varies significantly with phylogenetic group, but was not associated with evidence of Bd-driven declines, or other skin characteristics examined. This is the first comparison of sloughing rate across a wide range of amphibian species, and creates the first database of amphibian sloughing behaviour. Given the strong phylogenetic signal observed in sloughing rate, approximate sloughing rates of related species may be predicted based on phylogenetic position. While not related to available evidence of declines, understanding variation in sloughing rate may help explain differences in the severity of infection in genera with relatively slow skin turnover rates (e.g. Atelopus).

Original languageEnglish
Article number20182378
Number of pages9
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1896
Publication statusPublished - 13 Feb 2019


  • Amphibian declines
  • Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis
  • Chytridiomycosis
  • Phylogenetic signal
  • Skin morphology
  • Skin sloughing

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