Macroparasite Infections of Amphibians: What Can They Tell Us?
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Understanding linkages between environmental changes and disease emergence in human and wildlife populations represents one of the greatest challenges to ecologists and parasitologists. While there is considerable interest in drivers of amphibian microparasite infections and the resulting consequences, comparatively little research has addressed such questions for amphibian macroparasites. What work has been done in this area has largely focused on nematodes of the genus Rhabdias and on two genera of trematodes (Ribeiroia and Echinostoma). Here, we provide a synopsis of amphibian macroparasites, explore how macroparasites may affect amphibian hosts and populations, and evaluate the significance of these parasites in larger community and ecosystem contexts. In addition, we consider environmental influences on amphibian–macroparasite interactions by exploring contemporary ecological factors known or hypothesized to affect patterns of infection. While some macroparasites of amphibians have direct negative effects on individual hosts, no studies have explicitly examined whether such infections can affect amphibian populations. Moreover, due to their complex life cycles and varying degrees of host specificity, amphibian macroparasites have rich potential as bioindicators of environmental modifications, especially providing insights into changes in food webs. Because of their documented pathologies and value as bioindicators, we emphasize the need for broader investigation of this understudied group, noting that ecological drivers affecting these parasites may also influence disease patterns in other aquatic fauna.
Keywordsparasite global change bioindicators infectious disease community ecology malformations deformities trematode helminth emerging disease
We thank participants in the “Causes and Consequences of Helminth Infections in Amphibians” symposium held at the 2010 meeting of the American Society of Parasitologists for stimulating discussion on these topics and Matthew Bolek for valuable suggestions on earlier drafts of this paper. We would also like to gratefully acknowledge the late Daniel Sutherland for his contributions to amphibian parasitology. Support was provided by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada to JK, the Pesticide Science Fund (Environment Canada) to DJM, Grants from the US Department of Agriculture (NRI 2006-01370 and 2009-35102-0543) and the US Environmental Protection Agency (R833835) to JRR, a NSF Graduate Research Fellowship (DGE 0707432) to SAO, and a fellowship from the David and Lucile Packard Foundation and Grant from NSF (DEB-0841758) to PTJJ.
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