, Volume 165, Issue 3, pp 585-592

Influence of lung parasites on the growth rates of free-ranging and captive adult cane toads

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Abstract

Many parasites affect the viability of their hosts, but detailed studies combining empirical data from both the field and the laboratory are limited. Consequently, the nature and magnitude of such effects are poorly known for many important host–parasite systems, including macroparasites of amphibians. We examined the effects of lungworm (Rhabdias pseudosphaerocephala) infections in cane toads (Bufo marinus) within their invasive Australian range. The host-specificity of this parasite suggests that it might serve as a biological control agent for toads in Australia, if infection proves to reduce toad viability. Mark–recapture studies in the field (near Darwin, Northern Territory) revealed lowered growth rates in infected adult toads when compared to uninfected toads, and a laboratory experiment confirmed causality: experimental infection with R. pseudosphaerocephala reduce toad growth rates. In combination with previous work on the current host–parasite system, it is now evident that nematode lungworms reduce the viability of both newly metamorphosed and adult cane toads, and do so in the field as well as in the laboratory. Rhabdias pseudosphaerocephala may be a valuable component of a biological control strategy for cane toads in Australia.

Communicated by Raoul Van Damme.