Behavioral responses to immune-system activation in an anuran (the cane toad, Bufo marinus): field and laboratory studies

D. Llewellyn, G. P. Brown, M. B. Thompson, R. Shine*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Citations (Scopus)
23 Downloads (Pure)


The challenges posed by parasites and pathogens evoke behavioral as well as physiological responses. Such behavioral responses are poorly understood for most ectothermic species, including anuran amphibians. We quantified effects of simulated infection (via injection of bacterial lipopolysaccharide [LPS]) on feeding, activity, and thermoregulation of cane toads Bufo marinus within their invasive range in tropical Australia. LPS injection reduced feeding rates in laboratory trials. For toads in outdoor enclosures, LPS injection reduced activity and shifted body temperature profiles. Although previous research has attributed such thermal shifts to behavioral fever (elevated body temperatures may help fight infection), our laboratory studies suggest instead that LPS-injected toads stopped moving. In a thermal gradient, LPS-injected toads thus stayed close to whichever end of the gradient (hot or cold) they were first introduced; the introduction site (rather than behavioral thermoregulation) thus determined body temperature regimes. Shifts in thermal profiles of LPS-injected toads in outdoor enclosures also were a secondary consequence of inactivity. Thus, the primary behavioral effects of an immune response in cane toads are reduced rates of activity and feeding. Thermoregulatory modifications also occur but only as a secondary consequence of inactivity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)77-86
Number of pages10
JournalPhysiological and Biochemical Zoology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2011
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Copyright 2010 by University of Chicago Press. Originally published in Physiological and Biochemical Zoology 84(1):77–86. 2011. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


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