Salamander moms use bacteria to save eggs from fungi

From Washington, D.C., at a meeting of the American Society for Microbiology

Female salamanders that slither around on top of their eggs for hours may be protecting their offspring from more than hungry predators. The skin of these amphibians is inhabited by bacteria that secrete fungal-fighting compounds, according to Julia van Kessel of Utica College in New York and her colleagues.

The researchers studied the red-backed salamander Plethodon cinereus. Females maintain body contact with their eggs. Some scientists had hypothesized that this is a defense against fungi because mold often grows excessively on untended eggs.

The Utica group expected to find that the skin of salamanders contained an antifungal compound, but experiments pointed instead toward two species of bacteria. The microbes belong to the Pseudomonas group of bacteria and produce secretions that inhibit the growth of five different kinds of fungi, van Kessel reports.


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