In many amphibian species, an apparent increase has occurred in the prevalence of limb deformities caused by parasitic trematodes. We are interested in the role of environmental stressors in increasing these infections in amphibians. One mechanism by which environmental stressors could act to increase disease prevalence is to increase circulating levels of glucocorticosteroid hormones, which are released in response to stressors and can be immunosuppressive. In the present study, we treated gray treefroZg tadpoles (Hyla versicolor) with exogenous corticosterone, which is the main glucocorticosteroid “stress” hormone in amphibians. We then exposed treated tadpoles to Alaria sp. cercariae and scored the number of mesocercariae that successfully infected the tadpoles. In addition, we assayed one function of the immune response by counting the number of circulating eosinophilic granulocytes, which are thought to be important in immune responses to macroparasites. Tadpoles treated with exogenous corticosterone developed higher parasite loads than control tadpoles did, and they had lower numbers of circulating eosinophilic granulocytes. These results provide evidence of glucocorticosteroid-mediated immunosuppression in tadpoles that may help to explain apparent increases in the numbers of trematode-induced deformities in amphibian populations during recent decades.

You do not currently have access to this content.