Abstract

Pathogen transfer may be an important but poorly understood cost of cannibalism. Does the consumption of smaller conspecifics by Cane Toads (Rhinella marina) result in transfer of viability-reducing parasites such as nematode lungworms (Rhabdias pseudosphaerocephala)? Our experimental trials confirm that cannibalistic toads can indeed become infected, and our results are probably the first evidence of macroparasite transmission via intraspecific predation in amphibians. Our results also show that parasites acquired via cannibalism are viable, develop into fertile adults, and reduce the locomotor performance of the hosts. How cannibalism contributes to nematode transmission and spread in natural populations is not known, but we propose a scenario in which this interaction would be likely to increase the lungworm prevalence, intensity, or persistence.

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