Research Article

Rhabdias pseudosphaerocephala infection in Bufo marinus: lung nematodes reduce viability of metamorph cane toads

C. KELEHEARa1, J. K. WEBBa1 and R. SHINEa1 c1

a1 School of Biological Sciences A08, University of Sydney, NSW 2006, Australia


Cane toads (Bufo marinus) were introduced to Australia in 1935 and have since spread widely over the continent, generating concern regarding ecological impacts on native predators. Most Australian cane toad populations are infected with lung nematodes Rhabdias pseudosphaerocephala, a parasite endemic to New World (native-range) cane toad populations; presumably introduced to Australia with its toad host. Considering the high intensities and prevalence reached by this parasite in Australian toad populations, and public ardour for developing a control plan for the invasive host species, the lack of experimental studies on this host-parasite system is surprising. To investigate the extent to which this lungworm influences cane toad viability, we experimentally infected metamorph toads (the smallest and presumably most vulnerable terrestrial phase of the anuran life cycle) with the helminth. Infected toads exhibited reduced survival and growth rates, impaired locomotor performance (both speed and endurance), and reduced prey intake. In summary, R. pseudosphaerocephala can substantially reduce the viability of metamorph cane toads.

(Received February 02 2009)

(Revised March 17 2009)

(Accepted March 28 2009)

(Online publication June 15 2009)