Discovery of novel viruses associated with the invasive cane toad (Rhinella marina) in its native and introduced ranges

Alice G. Russo, Emma F. Harding, Grace J. H. Yan, Daniel Selechnik, Simon Ducatez, Jayna L. DeVore, Jia Zhou, Roshmi R. Sarma, Yin Peng Lee, Mark F. Richardson, Richard Shine, Lee A. Rollins, Peter A. White*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Cane toads (Rhinella marina) are notoriously successful invaders: from 101 individuals brought to Australia in 1935, poisonous toads now cover an area >1.2 million km2 with adverse effects on native fauna. Despite extensive research on the role of macroparasites in cane toad invasion, viral research is lagging. We compared viral prevalence and diversity between toads in their native range (French Guiana, n=25) and two introduced ranges: Australia (n=151) and Hawai’i (n=10) with a metatranscriptomic and metagenomic approach combined with PCR screening. Australian toads almost exclusively harbor one of seven viruses detected globally. Rhimavirus-A (Picornaviridae) exhibited low genetic diversity and likely actively infected 9% of sampled Australian toads extending across ~2,000km of Northern Australia and up to the current invasion front. In native range cane toads, we identified multiple phylogenetically distinct viruses (Iridoviridae, Picornaviridae, Papillomaviridae, and Nackedna-like virus). None of the same viruses was detected in both ranges, suggesting that Australian cane toads have largely escaped the viral infection experienced by their native range counterparts. The novel native range viruses described here are potential biocontrol agents, as Australian toads likely lack prior immunological exposure to these viruses. Overall, our evidence suggests that there may be differences between viruses infecting cane toads in their native vs. introduced ranges, which lays the groundwork for further studies on how these viruses have influenced the toads’ invasion history.

Original languageEnglish
Article number733631
Pages (from-to)1-15
Number of pages15
JournalFrontiers in Microbiology
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2021

Bibliographical note

Copyright the Author(s) 2021. 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.


  • cane toad
  • invasive species
  • Rhinella marina
  • viral discovery
  • virome


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