Do invasive cane toads affect the parasite burdens of native Australian frogs?

Damian C. Lettoof*, Matthew J. Greenlees, Michelle Stockwell, Richard Shine

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Citations (Scopus)
52 Downloads (Pure)


One of the most devastating impacts of an invasive species is the introduction of novel parasites or diseases to native fauna. Invasive cane toads (Rhinella marina) in Australia contain several types of parasites, raising concern that the toads may increase rates of parasitism in local anuran species. We sampled cane toads and sympatric native frogs (Limnodynastes peronii, Litoria latopalmata, and Litoria nasuta) at the southern invasion front of cane toads in north-eastern New South Wales (NSW). We dissected and swabbed these anurans to score the presence and abundance of nematodes (Rhabdias lungworms, and gastric encysting nematodes), myxozoans, and chytrid fungus. To determine if cane toad invasion influences rates of parasitism in native frogs, we compared the prevalence and intensity of parasites in frogs from areas with toads, to frogs from areas without toads. Contrary to the situation on the (rapidly-expanding) tropical invasion front, cane toads on the slowly-expanding southern front were heavily infected with rhabditoid lungworms. Toads also contained gastric-encysting nematodes, and one toad was infected by chytrid fungus, but we did not find myxozoans in any toads. All parasite groups were recorded in native frogs, but were less common in areas invaded by toads than in nearby yet to be invaded areas. Contrary to our predictions, toad invasion was associated with a reduced parasite burden in native frogs. Thus, cane toads do not appear to transfer novel parasites to native frog populations, or act as a reservoir for native parasites to 'spill-back' into native frogs. Instead, cane toads may reduce frog-parasite numbers by taking up native parasites that are then killed by the toad's immune defences.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)155-164
Number of pages10
JournalInternational Journal for Parasitology: Parasites and Wildlife
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2013
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Copyright the Author(s) 2013. 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.


  • host-parasite interaction
  • host-switch
  • novel host
  • biological invasion
  • anura


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