Detailed observations on interactions between parasites and prospective hosts during the infection process can clarify (1) the routes by which parasites enter the host and (2) the ability of prospective hosts to detect, avoid, or resist potential parasites. Such information can clarify determinants of host vulnerability. Infective larvae of the nematode Rhabdias pseudosphaerocephala entered the bodies of their anuran host the Cane Toad (Rhinella marina, formerly Bufo marinus) primarily through the orbit (i.e., by crawling over the surface of the toad's eye) rather than by burrowing through the skin (believed to be the usual route of infection for rhabditid parasites). In our experimental infections, metamorph Cane Toads detected infective R. pseudosphaerocephala larvae but did not avoid them, nor did they manage to restrict rates of infective larvae penetration by using behavioral means (the toads kicked at infective larvae but failed to dislodge them). Rhabdias pseudosphaerocephala cause damage to their toad host during the process of host entry and throughout the ensuing infection. Despite the high cost of infection and the low cost of avoidance, metamorph Cane Toads seem to lack effective parasite avoidance strategies.
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Vol. 67 • No. 4