The effects of a nematode lungworm (Rhabdias hylae) on its natural and invasive anuran hosts

Felicity B. L. Nelson, Gregory P. Brown, Sylvain Dubey, Richard Shine

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6 Citations (Scopus)


Biological invasions can bring both the invader and native taxa into contact with novel parasites. As cane toads (Rhinella marina) have spread through Australia, they have encountered lungworms (Rhabdias hylae) that occur in native frogs. Field surveys suggest that these lungworms have not host-switched to toads. In our laboratory studies, R. hylae infected cane toads as readily as it infected native frogs, but failed to reach the lungs of the novel host (i.e., were killed by the toads' immune response). Plausibly, then, R. hylae might reduce the viability both of their native hosts (frogs, that can exhibit high parasite burdens) and cane toads (that must deal with infective larvae traveling through the host body). Our laboratory trials suggest, however, that the impacts of the parasite on infected anuran hosts (both frogs and toads) were minimal, with no significant decrements to host survival, activity, growth, or locomotor performance. Ironically, the lack of impact of the parasite on its native hosts appears to be an outcome of co-evolution (frogs tolerate the lungworm), whereas the lack of impact on the novel host is due to a lack of co-evolution (toads can recognize and eliminate the lungworm).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)290-296
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Parasitology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2015
Externally publishedYes


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