The effects of experimentally infecting Australian tree frogs with lungworms (Rhabdias pseudosphaerocephala) from invasive cane toads

Lígia Pizzatto*, Richard Shine

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

23 Citations (Scopus)


Invasive species may transmit novel pathogens to native taxa, and lacking a history of coevolutionary interactions with the pathogen, the new hosts may be severely affected. Cane toads (Rhinella marina) were introduced to Australia in 1935, bringing with them a lungworm (Rhabdias pseudosphaerocephala) not found in Australian frogs. Previous studies suggest that most frog species are unaffected by this parasite, but one tree-frog (Litoria caerulea) can harbour high numbers of lungworm. More detailed laboratory studies confirm and extend the earlier results on L. caerulea and show that Rhabdias infection severely depresses the viability of metamorphs of an allied tree-frog species, Litoria splendida. Parasitic larvae infected both of these two closely related tree-frog species, but the two anurans differed in the consequences of infection. Parasitism reduced the survivorship of L. splendida and the stamina of both species. Lungworms did not consistently reduce growth rates or affect heart rates in either tree-frog species. Although L. splendida is potentially vulnerable to the arrival of toad-transported lungworms, rates of host-switching may be reduced by low levels of habitat overlap between the frogs (which are rock-dwelling and arboreal) and the toads (which are terrestrial and most abundant in disturbed habitats).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)943-949
Number of pages7
JournalInternational Journal for Parasitology
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • aberrant host
  • alien species
  • Bufo marinus
  • parasitism
  • pathogen transfer
  • Rhabdias
  • Litoria

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