Small Frogs Get Their Worms First: The Role of Nonodonate Arthropods in the Recruitment of Haematoloechus coloradensis and Haematoloechus complexus in Newly Metamorphosed Northern Leopard Frogs, Rana pipiens, and Woodhouse's Toads, Bufo woodhousii
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Studies on the life cycles and epizootiology of North American frog lung flukes indicate that most species utilize odonates as second intermediate hosts; adult frogs become infected by ingesting odonate intermediate hosts. Newly metamorphosed frogs are rarely infected with these parasites, predominantly because they are gape-limited predators that cannot feed on large intermediate hosts such as dragonflies. We examined the role of the frog diet and potential intermediate hosts in the recruitment of the frog lung fluke, Haematoloechus coloradensis, to metamorphosed northern leopard frogs (Rana pipiens), Woodhouse’s toads (Bufo woodhousii), and bullfrogs (Rana catesbeiana) from western Nebraska. Because of the uncertain validity of H. coloradensis as a distinct species from Haematoloechus complexus, morphological characters of both species were reevaluated and the life cycles of both species were completed in the laboratory. The morphological data on H. coloradensis and H. complexus indicate that they differ in their oral sucker to pharynx ratio, uterine loop distribution, and placement of vitelline follicles. However, in terms of their life cycles, both species are quite similar in their use of physid snails as first intermediate hosts, a wide range of nonodonate and odonate arthropods as second intermediate hosts, and leopard frogs and toads as definitive hosts. These results indicate that H. coloradensis and H. complexus are generalists at the second intermediate host level and might be able to infect newly metamorphosed leopard frogs and toads by using small nonodonate arthropods more commonly than other frog lung fluke species. Comparisons of population structure of adult flukes in newly metamorphosed leopard frogs indicate that the generalist nature of H. coloradensis metacercariae enables it to colonize young of the year leopard frogs more commonly than other Haematoloechus spp. that only use odonates as second intermediate hosts. In this respect, the generalist nature of H. coloradensis and H. complexus at the second intermediate host level is an avenue for the colonization of young of year frogs.