Ecological impacts of invading species: do parasites of the cane toad imperil Australian frogs?

Lígia Pizzatto*, Richard Shine

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Citations (Scopus)


Parasite transfer to native fauna is a potentially catastrophic impact of invasive species. Introduced cane toads in Australia frequently host the nematode lungworm Rhabdias pseudosphaerocephala, which reduces viability of metamorph toads. If native frogs are vulnerable to this South American parasite, cane toad invasion may affect native species via this route; but if the native taxa are not vulnerable, we may be able to exploit the parasites for managing toads. Our laboratory experiments show that infective larvae can penetrate the body of all seven species of Australian frogs (five hylids: Cyclorana longipes, Litoria caerulea, Litoria dahlii, Litoria nasuta, Litoria rothii, one myobatrachid: Opisthodon ornatus, and one limnodynastid: Limnodynastes convexiusculus) we tested, but most did not host the adult worms at the end of the trials, and none showed major impairment of growth, survival or locomotor performance. One native tree-frog (L. caerulea) retained high infection levels with few ill effects, suggesting that we might be able to use this taxon as a reservoir species to build up local parasite densities for toad management. However, the interspecific variation in lungworm retention suggests that generalizations about parasite effects on native frogs will be elusive.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)954-963
Number of pages10
JournalAustral Ecology
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • aberrant host
  • Anura
  • biological invasion
  • Bufo marinus
  • host-parasite interaction
  • host-switch
  • novel host


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