Journal of Pest Science

, Volume 87, Issue 1, pp 89–97

Effect of Rhabdias pseudosphaerocephala on prey consumption of free-ranging cane toads (Rhinella marina) during Australian tropical wet seasons

  • Sigrid R. Heise-Pavlov
  • Karena Paleologo
  • William Glenny
Original Paper


The development of biological control measures to reduce the impact of invasive species is a desired goal. Rhabdias species have recently been advocated as biological control agents for invasive anurans. This study describes a field-based approach to support laboratory results on the potential impact of the lung nematode Rhabdias pseudosphaerocephala on the prey consumption of its host, the invasive cane toad (Rhinella marina, Bufonidae). Toads were sampled from various populations in the Wet Tropics of Australia during the wet seasons of 2010 and 2012. Consumed prey items were counted in 212 cane toads and identified to class and order levels and the number of lung nematodes was counted for each toad. The number of R. pseudosphaerocephala in free-ranging cane toads affected negatively the diversity of prey items consumed, but was not related to the number of prey items or the number of ants consumed. The results suggest that infection of free-ranging cane toads by the lung nematode reduces their range of prey items. Possible reasons could be a reduced locomotor activity resulting in changes of foraging modes of infected toads which was reported from some laboratory trials. Infection of cane toads by R. pseudosphaerocephala may therefore have the potential to alter the impact of cane toads on invertebrate communities and their competition for food resources with native Australian anurans.


Cane toad Dietary shift Lung nematode Prey consumption Rhabdias pseudosphaerocephala Rhinella marina Wet Tropics of Australia 


  1. Anderson RM (1982) Theoretical basis for the use of pathogens as biological control agents of pest species. Parasitol 83:3–33CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. ANZCCART (2001) Australian and New Zealand Council for the Care of Animals in research and teachings. Euthanasia of animals used for scientific purposes. Department of Biology. Adelaide UniversityGoogle Scholar
  3. Bailey P (1976) Food of the marine toad, Bufo marinus, and six species of skinks in a cocao plantation in New Britain, Papua New Guinea. Aust Wildl Res 3:185–188CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Barnard CJ, Behnke JM (1991) Parasitism and host behaviour. Taylor and Francis, LondonGoogle Scholar
  5. Barton DP (1998) Dynamics of natural infections of Rhabdias cf. hylae (Nematoda) in Bufo marinus (Amphibia) in Australia. Parasitol 117:505–513CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Brown GP, Kelehear C, Shine R (2011) Effects of seasonal aridity on the ecology and behaviour of invasive cane toads in the Australian wet-dry tropics. Funct Biol 25:1339–1347Google Scholar
  7. Burnett S (1997) Colonising cane toads cause population declines in native predators: reliable anecdotal information and management implications. Pac Conserv Biol 3:65–72Google Scholar
  8. Catling PC, Hertog A, Burt RJ, Wombey JC, Forrester RI (1999) The short-term effect of cane toads (Bufo marinus) on native fauna in the Gulf Country of the Northern Territory. Wildl Res 26:161–185CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Cohen M (1995) Ecology of two populations of Bufo marinus in north-eastern Australia. James Cook University of North Queensland, DouglasGoogle Scholar
  10. Commonwealth Bureau of Meteorology (2011) Accessed 27 Jan 2011
  11. Crossland MR, Alford RA (1998) Evaluation of the toxicity of eggs, hatchlings and tadpoles of the introduced toad Bufo marinus (Anura: Bufonidae) to native Australian aquatic predators. Aust J Ecol 23:129–137CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Dubey S, Shine R (2008) Origin of the parasites of an invading species, the Australian cane toad (Bufo marinus): Are the lungworms Australian or American? Mol Ecol 17:4418–4424PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Freeland WJ, Delvinqueir BL, Bonnin B (1986) Food and parasitism of the cane toad, Bufo marinus, in relation to time since colonization. Aust Wildl Res 13:489–499CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Frith D, Frith C (1990) Seasonality of litter invertebrate populations in an Australian Upland Tropical Rainforest. Biotropica 22:181–190CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Georgis RA, Koppenhöfer M, Lacey LA, Bélair G, Duncan LW, Grewal PS, Samish M, Tan L, Torr P, Van Tol RW (2006) Successes and failures in the use of parasitic nematodes for pest control. Biol Control 8:103–123CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Goater CP, Vandenbos RE (1997) Effects of larval history and lungworm infection on the growth and survival of juvenile wood frogs (Rana sylvatica). Herpetol 53:331–338Google Scholar
  17. Goater CP, Ward PI (1992) Negative effects of Rhabdias bufonis (Nematoda) on the growth and survival of toads (Bufo bufo). Oecologia 89:161–165Google Scholar
  18. Goater CP, Semlitsch RD, Bernasconi MV (1993) Effect of body size and parasite infection on the locomotory performance of juvenile toads, Bufo bufo. Oikos 66:129–136CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Gonzalez-Bernal E, Brown GP, Cabrera-Guzman E, Shine R (2011) Foraging tactics of an ambush predator: the effects of substrate attributes on prey availability and predator feeding process. Behav Ecol Sociobiol 65:1367–1375CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Greenlees MJ, Brown GP, Webb JK, Phillips BL, Shine R (2006) Effects of an invasive anuran (the cane toad, Bufo marinus) on the invertebrate fauna of a tropical Australian floodplain. Anim Conserv 9:431–438CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Hawkeswood T (1987) Beetles of Australia. Angus and Robertson Publishers, North RydeGoogle Scholar
  22. Heise-Pavlov SR, Longway LJ (2011) Diet and dietary selectivity of Cane Toads (Rhinella marina) in restoration sites: a case study in Far North Queensland, Australia. Ecol Manag Restor 12:230–233CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Holmes JC, Zohar S (1991) Pathology and host behaviour. In: Barnard CJ, Behnke JM (eds) Parasitism and host behaviour. Taylor and Francis, London, pp 34–63Google Scholar
  24. Janzen DH, Schoener TW (1968) Differences in insect abundance and diversity between wetter and drier sites during a tropical dry season. Ecology 49:96–110CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Kelehear C, Webb JK, Shine R (2009) Rhabdias pseudosphaerocephala infection in Bufo marinus: lung nematodes reduce viability of metamorph cane toads. Parasitol 136:919–927CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Kelehear C, Brown GP, Shine R (2011) Influence of lung parasites on the growth rates of free-ranging and captive adult cane toads. Oecologia 165:585–592PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Kuzmin Y, Tkach VV, Brooks DR (2007) Two new species of Rhabdias (Nematoda: Rhabdiasidae) from the Marine Toad, Bufo marinus (L.) (Lissamphibia: Anura: Bufonidae), in Central America. J Parasitol 93:159–165PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Lampo M, Medialdea V (1996) Energy allocation patterns in Bufo marinus from two habitats in Venezuela. J Trop Ecol 12:321–331CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Langford GJ, Janovy J Jr (2009) Comparative life cycles and life histories of North American Rhabdias Spp. (Nematoda: Rhabdiasidae): lungworms from snakes and anurans. J Parasitol 95:1145–1155PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Lever C (2001) The cane toad: the history and ecology of a successful colonist. Westbury Academic and Scientific Publishing, OtleyGoogle Scholar
  31. Llewellyn J, Phillips B, Schwarzkopf L, Shine R (2010) Locomotor performance in an invasive species: cane toads from the invasion front have greater endurance, but not speed, compared to conspecifics from a long-colonised area. Oceologia 162:343–348CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Moore FR, Gatten RE (1989) Locomotor performance of hydrated, dehydrated, and osmotically stressed anuran amphibians. Herpetol 45:101–110Google Scholar
  33. O’Hara RB, Kotze DJ (2010) Do not log-transform count data. Meth Ecol Evol 1:118–122CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Phillips BL, Brown GP, Shine R (2003) Assessing the potential impact of cane toads Bufo marinus on Australian snakes. Conserv Biol 17:1738–1747CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Pizzatto L, Shine R (2011a) Ecological impacts of invading species: do parasites of the cane toad imperil Australian frogs? Austral Ecol 36:954–963CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Pizzatto L, Shine R (2011b) You are what you eat: parasite transfer in cannibalistic cane toads. Herpetol 67:118–123CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Pizzatto L, Shine R (2012) Lungworm infection modifies cardiac response to exercise in cane toads. J Zool 287:150–155CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Pizzatto L, Shilton CM, Shine R (2010) Infection dynamics of the lungworm Rhabdias pseudosphaerocephala in its natural host, the cane toad (Bufo marinus), and in novel hosts (native Australian frogs). J Wildl Dis 46:1152–1164PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Ruppert EE, Barnes RD (1994) Invertebrate zoology, 6th edn. Saunders College Publishing, Harcourt Brace and Company, Orlando, FloridaGoogle Scholar
  40. Saunders G, Cooke B, McColl K, Shine R, Peacock T (2010) Modern approaches for the biological control of vertebrate pests: an Australian perspective. Biol Control 52:288–295CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Sax DF, Stanchowicz JJ, Brown JH, Bruno JF, Dawson MN, Gaines SD, Grosberg RK (2007) Ecological and evolutionary insights from species invasions. Trends Ecol Evol 22:466–471CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Schwarzkopf L, Alford R (1996) Desiccation and shelter-site use in a tropical amphibian: comparing toads with physical models. Funct Ecol 10:193–200CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Schwarzkopf L, Alford R (2002) Normadic movements in tropical toads. Oikos 96:492–506CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Shannon MF, Bayliss P (2008) Review of the CSIRO Biological Control of Cane Toad Program to April 2008. Australian Government, Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage, and the ArtsGoogle Scholar
  45. Simberloff D, Stiling P (1996) How risky is biological control? Ecology 77:1965–1974CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Smith J, Phillips B (2006) Toxic tucker: the potential impact of cane toads on Australian reptiles. Pac Conserv Biol 12:40–49Google Scholar
  47. Struessmann C, Ribeiro Do Vale MB, Hoffmeister-Meneghini M, Magnusson WE (1984) Diet and Foraging Mode of Bufo marinus and Leptodactylus ocellatus. J Herpetol 18:138–146CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Taigen TL, Pough HF (1983) Prey preference, foraging behavior, and metabolic characteristics of frogs. Am Nat 122:509–520CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Urban MC, Phillips BL, Skelly DK, Shine R (2008) A toad more travelled: the heterogeneous invasion dynamics of cane toads in Australia. Am Nat 171:134–148CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Zborowski P, Storey R (1995) A field guide to insects in Australia. Reed Books, ChatswoodGoogle Scholar
  51. Zug GR, Zug PB (1979) The marine toad, Bufo marinus: a natural history resumé of native populations. Smithsonian Contrib Zool 284:1–54Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sigrid R. Heise-Pavlov
    • 1
  • Karena Paleologo
    • 2
  • William Glenny
    • 3
  1. 1.Centre for Rainforest Studies, School for Field StudiesYungaburraAustralia
  2. 2.Wellesley CollegeWellesleyUSA
  3. 3.Gonzaga UniversitySpokaneUSA

Personalised recommendations