Ecological factors responsible for the geographic distribution of Rhabdias joaquinensis: where do lungworms infect anurans in nature?

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Parasitology Research
The lungworm Rhabdias joaquinensis (Nematoda: Rhabdiasidae) is a common parasite of anurans in eastern Nebraska, yet absent from the same hosts in western Nebraska. This study investigated the ecology of the lungworm’s free-living stages that reside in host feces and surrounding soils to establish the worm’s free-living niche in eastern Nebraska. Using a comparative method, this study also investigated the absence of lungworms in western Nebraska’s Sandhills. Soil composition, moisture, and temperature were experimentally varied in the laboratory to assess their effects on juvenile development and survival. Field mesocosm and host defecation experiments were used to determine where in nature lungworms survive and eventually infect frogs and toads and to discover if vegetation facilitates lungworm transmission to hosts. The results found loam soils were amenable to lungworm development, whereas soils with high clay or sand content produced few infective lungworms. Soil moisture <50 % did not support lungworm development. Infective juveniles successfully developed between 5 and 35 °C, albeit at different rates, whereas only a limited number of non-infective worms developed at 40 °C. Field studies found that shoreline environments supported lungworm development, and the majority of lungworm infections appear to occur within a zone of infection adjacent to shorelines in eastern Nebraska. The prevalence in vegetation mesocosms was 100 %, and a significantly higher mean abundance was found in toads from containers with vegetation than without. Overall, these experiments suggest that the spatial distribution of R. joaquinensis in Nebraska is constrained by the worm’s ability to survive and reproduce in a soil matrix.
Rhabditida, Soil Nematodes, Anura, Lungworms
Langford, G. J., & Janovy, J. (2015). Ecological factors responsible for the geographic distribution of Rhabdias joaquinensis: Where do lungworms infect anurans in nature? Parasitology Research Parasitol Res, 115(3), 1305-1313. doi:10.1007/s00436-015-4867-3