The outcomes of host-parasite interactions depend heavily on the host's immune response, which, in turn, is governed by previous interactions between the host and parasite, both over the host's life time and over evolutionary time. In the case of species introductions, such as the cane toad (Bufo marinus) to Australia, parasites that are benign to native species of the introduced range may present a major challenge to the introduced species. Stomachs of introduced cane toads and seven species of sympatric native frogs were examined for parasites, and their pathology and biology were compared. Cane toads were host to eight species of third-stage spirurid larvae, six of which also occurred in the stomach wall of four native frog species. In general, encysted nematode larvae attained higher prevalence and species richness in introduced cane toads than in sympatric native frogs. This trend was largely explained by differences in body sizes: larger anurans were more likely to possess infections, and cane toads are inherently larger than native frogs. Encysted larvae in cane toad stomachs provoked a marked pathologic response. All larvae (physalopterine and Physocephalus spp.) were surrounded by concentric layers of dense, fibrous tissue, with considerable cellular infiltration characterized by lymphocytes and polymorphs. Many cysts were invaded by cells and exudate, which, in more advanced cases, became calcified. Some larvae appeared viable; most were in various stages of destruction, and some smaller Physocephalus spp. were mummified. Conversely, pathologic response observed in native frogs was minimal, with little fibrotic reaction surrounding the cysts, and no cellular infiltration. Presumably, the contrast in pathology between introduced and native hosts reflects the long evolutionary association between these nematode larvae and native frogs, whereas the recent exposure of introduced toads to these helminths provokes a severe reaction.
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Vol. 46 • No. 4