One Species of Toad Tops the Food Chain

One Species of Toad Tops the Food Chain

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Cane toads were taken from the state of Hawaii in 1935 and brought over to Australia in the hopes of controlling the native grey-backed cane beetle. The native species were noted to be detrimental to sugar cane crops, one of the main source of income for Australia because they feed on the roots, destroying the crop.

The spread of cane toads in Australia from 1940 to 1980 in five-year intervals. Wikipedia.org

The introduction of around 3,000 cane toads was thought to control the pests however, they bred immediately across Australia. Multiplying to a number now close to 200 million over an 82-year span, they are spreading diseases to pets and humans, depleting native fauna, and reducing prey populations for insectivores.

Despite the environmental and biodiversity degradation that the cane toads are causing there is, unfortunately, no evidence that supports that they affect the decline of the cane beetles. Researchers have noted that they are evolving to have larger bodies, longer legs, and faster movement, strengthing their ability to travel to farther land, expanding their range of resources.

Griffith University cane toad expert Jean-Marc Hero told DailyMail“Cane toads are unstoppable eating machines. They will eat anything that moves and fits in their mouth.”

The secret to the unstoppable and indivisible cane toad is their defense mechanism…
Well-fed: This cane toad weighs 3.3 pounds due to her diet of mice, bats, and snakes via DailyMail

As predators in Australia are not adapted to their toxin, any species who tries to attack the pesky frog is exposed to the toxic effects they produce. This effects the Australian reptiles more than any group, statistically, seventy-five percent of crocodiles and freshwater turtles were found to be at risk.

Fortunately, the species in Australia are learning to fight back the deadly anuran. A native species of crow that has learned how to attack and eat cane toads without being poisoned and the Australian dwarf crocodile recently learned to only eat the hind legs.

To teach students about the harmful effects of the cane toad schools present the documentary, Cane Toads: An Unnatural History. For almost 20 years after the release of the movie in 1988, the movie held the title of top grossing non-IMAX documentary for the Australian box office and remains easily in the top ten today even with the IMAX films included. The movie can be watched on YouTube here.

The UQ researchers hope to see their invention on supermarket shelves in the near future via ABC

In recent news, Brisbane researchers have discovered that they can take the adult cane toad’s own poison and create traps that closely smell like food for tadpoles. Researchers at the University of Queensland have developed and are trialing the new traps that are able to capture and eradicate over 10,000 tadpoles in one blow.

The dangers of introducing an invasive species to a non-native area are now clear, and the cane toad will go down in history for the worst ecological tragedies from researchers in the field.

Written by Rachel Grace Fritz

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