Recent evidence suggests that infection by larvae of the trematode Ribeiroia ondatrae accounts for a significant proportion of limb malformations currently observed in amphibian populations of North America. However, the effects of R. ondatrae infection on northern leopard frogs (Rana pipiens), one of the species most frequently reported with malformations, have not been adequately explored. Moreover, the risk factors associated with R. ondatrae-induced malformations have not been clearly identified. We examined the effects of timing of infection on tadpole survival and limb development. Rana pipiens tadpoles were individually exposed to R. ondatrae cercariae at the pre-limb-bud (Gosner stages 24 and 25), limb-bud (Gosner stages 27 and 28), or paddle (Gosner stages 3133) stages of development and monitored through metamorphosis. The effects of infection were stage-specific. Infections acquired at the pre-limb-bud stage resulted in a high mortality rate (47.597.5%), whereas tadpoles infected at the limb-bud stage displayed a high malformation rate (16% overall), and the magnitude of effects increased with the level of exposure to cercariae. In contrast, infections acquired at the paddle stage had no effect on limb development or tadpole survival, which suggests that the timing of R. ondatrae infection in relation to the stage structure of tadpole populations in the wild is an important determinant of the degree to which populations are affected by R. ondatrae.
Additional Publication Details
Influence of Ribeiroia ondatrae (Trematoda: Digenea) infection on limb development and survival of northern leopard frogs (Rana pipiens): effects of host stage and parasite-exposure level