Endocrine and immune responses of larval amphibians to trematode exposure
In nature, multiple waves of exposure to the same parasite are likely, making it important to understand how initial exposure or infection affects subsequent host infections, including the underlying physiological pathways involved. We tested whether experimental exposure to trematodes (Echinostoma trivolvis or Ribeiroia ondatrae) affected the stress hormone corticosterone (known to influence immunocompetence) in larvae representing five anuran species. We also examined the leukocyte profiles of seven host species after single exposure to R. ondatrae (including four species at multiple time points) and determined if parasite success differed between individuals given one or two challenges. We found strong interspecific variation among anuran species in their corticosterone levels and leukocyte profiles, and fewer R. ondatrae established in tadpoles previously challenged, consistent with defense "priming." However, exposure to either trematode had only weak effects on our measured responses. Tadpoles exposed to E. trivolvis had decreased corticosterone levels relative to controls, whereas those exposed to R. ondatrae exhibited no change. Similarly, R. ondatrae exposure did not lead to appreciable changes in host leukocyte profiles, even after multiple challenges. Prior exposure thus influenced host susceptibility to trematodes, but was not obviously associated with shifts in leukocyte counts or corticosterone, in contrast to work with microparasites.