Effects of invasion history on physiological responses to immune system activation in invasive Australian cane toads.
The cane toad (Rhinella marina) has undergone rapid evolution during its invasion of tropical Australia. Toads from invasion front populations (in Western Australia) have been reported to exhibit a stronger baseline phagocytic immune response than do conspecifics from range core populations (in Queensland). To explore this difference, we injected wild-caught toads from both areas with the experimental antigen lipopolysaccharide (LPS, to mimic bacterial infection) and measured whole-blood phagocytosis. Because the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis is stimulated by infection (and may influence immune responses), we measured glucocorticoid response through urinary corticosterone levels. Relative to injection of a control (phosphate-buffered saline), LPS injection increased both phagocytosis and the proportion of neutrophils in the blood. However, responses were similar in toads from both populations. This null result may reflect the ubiquity of bacterial risks across the toad's invaded range; utilization of this immune pathway may not have altered during the process of invasion. LPS injection also induced a reduction in urinary corticosterone levels, perhaps as a result of chronic stress.