Biological Invasions

, Volume 14, Issue 5, pp 999–1008

Reduced investment in immune function in invasion-front populations of the cane toad (Rhinella marina) in Australia

  • David Llewellyn
  • Michael B. Thompson
  • Gregory P. Brown
  • Benjamin L. Phillips
  • Richard Shine
Original Paper


In an invasive species, selection for increased rates of dispersal at the expanding range front may favor the evolution of reduced investment into any trait that does not contribute to more rapid dispersal. Thus, populations at the invasion front may exhibit reduced investment into the immune system. To test this prediction, cane toads (Rhinella marina) from parents collected from populations across the toads’ invasion history in tropical Australia were raised in a standard environment. When their immune systems were challenged by injection of bacterial lipopolysaccharide, the toads’ metabolic rates rose by up to 40%. The magnitude of elevation in metabolic rate was lower in toads derived from the invasion front than in those from long-established populations. Our results support the hypothesis that an animal’s investment in immune defenses can be modified by selective forces that arise in the course of a biological invasion.


Bufo marinus Immunocompetence Invasive species Life-history trade-offs Lipopolysaccharide Metabolic rate 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • David Llewellyn
    • 1
  • Michael B. Thompson
    • 1
  • Gregory P. Brown
    • 1
  • Benjamin L. Phillips
    • 2
  • Richard Shine
    • 1
  1. 1.School of Biological Sciences A08University of SydneySydneyAustralia
  2. 2.Centre for Tropical Biodiversity and Climate Change, School of Marine and Tropical BiologyJames Cook UniversityTownsvilleAustralia

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