Red-spotted newts, Notophthalmus viridescens, contain tetrodotoxin (TTX) and its analogue 6-epiTTX in variable concentrations. In a follow-up study, newts were sampled from a pond in Pennsylvania, USA, in 2010, 2014, and 2018. Their toxin levels were assayed by liquid-chromatography-fluorescence detection (LC-FLD), and assessment of their infection with endoparasites such as nematodes and helminths was performed by histological examination of internal organs. In the 2010 and 2014 samples, average prevalence of parasite infection was 53 and 60%, respectively, but reached 100% in the 2018 sample, where metacercaria stages of the digenean trematode genus Australapatemon/Apatemon (family: Strigeidae) were predominant causing severe tissue damage in liver and kidney. Mean values of TTX and 6-epiTTX were not significantly different in parasitized or parasite-free newts over the study period, confirming previous findings that host toxicity and parasite load are not negatively correlated. Whereas the role of TTX in defence against predators is undisputed, its efficacy to prevent parasitic infections is less obvious. Toxin-resistance of various metazoan parasites may promote their widespread occurrence in poisonous newts.
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