Assessing the Influence of Stress and Behavior on Susceptibility to and Recovery from Snake Fungal Disease in the Timber Rattlesnake (Crotalus horridus)

Hewlett, John B. 

                                                                                                                   

jhewlett@murraystate.edu

 

Biology Department

Murray State University

Murray, Kentucky, USA

 

Since 2006 an emerging fungal pathogen (Ophidiomyces ophiodiicola), the causative agent of Snake Fungal Disease (SFD), has been documented as causing mortality in populations of wild snakes. How stress reactivity affects susceptibility to and or ability to clear SFD remains unknown. Here we investigate the effects of baseline as well as elevated Corticosterone on disease dynamics and 2nd and 3rd order habitat selection in a population of Timber Rattlesnakes (Crotalus horridus) in the Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area. During the 2018 field season between May and September 10 C. horridus were captured, surgically implanted with radio-transmitters, and followed every 72 hours. Blood and tissue biopsies were sampled from each individual and habitat attributes were obtained from both used and random locations once a month. CORT was analyzed using an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) and the presence of O. ophiodiicola was determined using quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR). Results will be forthcoming.

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