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Skin bacterial diversity is higher on lizards than sympatric frogs in tropical Australia
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Animal skin acts as a barrier between the organism and its environment and provides the first line of defense against invading pathogens. Thus, skin surfaces harbor communities of microbes that are interacting with both the host and its environment. Amphibian skin bacteria form distinct communities closely tied to their host species, but few studies have compared bacterial communities between amphibians and other, non-amphibian sympatric animals. Notably, skin microbes on reptiles have gained little attention. We used next-generation sequencing technology to describe bacterial communities on the skin of three lizard species and compared them to bacteria on six cohabiting frog species in the Northern Territory of Australia. We found bacterial communities had higher richness and diversity on lizards than frogs, with different community composition between reptiles and amphibians and among species. Core bacteria on the three lizard species overlapped by over 100 operational taxonomic units. The bacterial communities were similar within species of frogs and lizards, but the communities tended to be more similar between lizard species than between frog species and when comparing lizards with frogs. The diverse bacteria found on lizards invites further questions on how and how well reptiles interact with microorganisms through their scaly skin.