Cane Toads May Be Less Of A Threat

The cane toad, aptly named, was originally brought to Australia to prevent beetles from destroying sugar cane.

Cane toads (Bufo marinus) may be less of a threat to Australia than previously believed. According to an article published in The Quarterly Review of Biology, the cane toad has not made as severe an impact as expected on native species in the country, and some native species are even adapting to the toads.

Cane toads were introduced in Australia in 1935 to eliminate beetles that were destroying crops of sugar cane. Prolific breeders, cane toads flourished in Australia, giving rise to panic that these anurans with toxic skin secretions would upset the country's ecosystem.

Huge populations of native species have died from ingesting the cane toad, and the invasive species competes with frogs for food and egg-laying sites. However, according to the article in The Quarterly Review of Biology, some of the species that have been severely impacted by the invasive cane toad are able to recover in a few decades by making longer-term adaptive changes and learning to avoid cane toads. The research also indicates that insect populations in Australia have remained stable in spite of the cane toad's arrival.

Since the spread of the cane toad decades ago, it has been discovered that many native species, such as a variety of birds and rodents, are able to tolerate the toad's toxins and are not at risk as was previously believed. Some native species (mostly large predators) are dwindling in numbers as a result of the cane toad. Others, especially those that are prey to these large predators, have benefited, according to the article.

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