Age- and size-dependent resistance to chytridiomycosis in the invasive cane toad Rhinella marina.
In Australia, the cane toad Rhinella marina and chytrid fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd) are examples of invasive species that have had dramatic impacts on native fauna. However, little is known about the interaction between Bd and cane toads. We aimed to explore the interaction of these 2 species in 3 parts. First, we collated data from the literature on Bd infection in wild cane toads. Second, we tested the susceptibility of recently metamorphosed cane toads to Bd infection. Finally, we modelled the distribution of the 2 species in Australia to identify where they overlap and, therefore, might interact. Through our data collation, we found that adult cane toads are infrequently infected and do not carry high infection burdens; however, our infection experiment showed that metamorphs are highly susceptible to infection and disease, but resistance appears to increase with increasing toad size. Niche modelling revealed overlapping distributions and the potential for cane toads to be affected by chytridiomycosis in the wild. While Bd can cause mortality in small juveniles in the laboratory, warm microhabitats used by wild toads likely prevent infection, and furthermore, high mortality of juveniles is unlikely to affect the adult populations because they are highly fecund. However, to demonstrate the impact of Bd on wild cane toad populations, targeted field studies are required to assess (1) the overall impact of chytridiomycosis on recruitment especially in cooler areas more favourable for Bd and (2) whether cane toad juveniles can amplify Bd exposure of native amphibian species in these areas.