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Abundance of lungworm parasites in invasive cane toads from burned and unburned sites

posted on 2022-06-11, 04:27 authored by Richard Shine, Shannon Kaiser, Matthew GreenleesMatthew Greenlees
The frequency and severity of wildfires are increasing due to anthropogenic modifications to habitats and to climate. Post-fire landscapes may advantage invasive species via multiple mechanisms, including changes to host-parasite interactions. We surveyed the incidence of endoparasitic lungworms (Rhabdias pseudosphaerocephala) in invasive cane toads (Rhinella marina) in near-coastal sites of eastern Australia, a year after extensive fires in this region. Both the prevalence of infection, and number of worms in infected toads, increased with toad body size in unburned areas. In contrast, parasite load decreased rather than increased with toad body size in burned areas. By killing moisture-dependent free-living lungworm larvae, the intense fires may have liberated adult cane toads from a parasite that can substantially reduce the viability of its host. Smaller toads, which are restricted to moist environments, did not receive this benefit from fires.


Toads were collected by community volunteers, humanely euthanased, and dissected to count lungworms.


Australian Research Council : LP170100198


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