Helminth community structure of sympatric eastern American toad, Bufo americanus americanus, northern leopard frog, Rana pipiens, and blue-spotted salamander, Ambystoma laterale, from southeastern Wisconsin

J Parasitol. 2003 Aug;89(4):673-80. doi: 10.1645/GE-70R.


One-hundred twelve amphibians, including 51 blue-spotted salamanders, Ambystoma laterale, 30 eastern American toads, Bufo americanus americanus, and 31 northern leopard frogs, Rana pipiens, were collected during April-October 1996 from Waukesha County, Wisconsin and examined for helminth parasites. The helminth compound community of this amphibian assemblage consisted of at least 10 species: 9 in American toads, 8 in leopard frogs, and 3 in blue-spotted salamanders. American toads shared 7 species with leopard frogs, and 2 species occurred in all 3 host species. Although there was a high degree of helminth species overlap among these sympatric amphibians, statistically significant differences were found among host species and percent of indirect or direct-life cycle parasites of amphibian species individual component communities (chi2 = 1,015, P < 0.001). American toads had a higher relative abundance of nematodes, 59%, than larval cestodes, 31%, and larval and adult trematodes, 10%, whereas leopard frogs had a higher relative abundance of larval cestodes, 71.3%, and larval and adult trematodes, 25.3%, than nematodes 3.4%. This is related to ecological differences in habitat and dietary preferences between these 2 anuran species. Helminth communities of blue-spotted salamanders were depauperate and were dominated by larval trematodes, 94%, and few nematodes, 6%. Low helminth species richness in this host species is related to this salamander's relatively small host body size, smaller gape size, lower vagility, and more fossorial habitat preference than the other 2 anuran species. Adult leopard frogs and toads had significantly higher mean helminth species richness than metamorphs, but there was no significant difference in mean helminth species richness among adult and metamorph blue-spotted salamanders. Considering adult helminths, the low species richness and low vagility of caudatans as compared with anurans suggest that local factors may be more important in structuring caudatan helminth communities of salamanders than of anuran hosts. Helminth species infecting salamanders may be more clumped in their geographic distribution as compared with anurans, and the role of other hosts and their parasites at the compound community level may be important in structuring helminth communities of salamanders.

MeSH terms

  • Ambystoma / parasitology*
  • Animals
  • Bufonidae / parasitology*
  • Helminthiasis, Animal / epidemiology
  • Helminthiasis, Animal / parasitology*
  • Prevalence
  • Rana pipiens / parasitology*
  • Wisconsin / epidemiology