Invasion of the cane toads

Feb 27, 2008
Invasion of the cane toads
Australian cane toad (Chaunus [Bufo] marinus). Credit: Ben L. Phillips

Why do some invasive species expand rapidly in a new environment while others do not? Scientists from the United States and Australia are beginning to make headway on this question after analyzing how fast cane toads invaded different regions of Australia.

Using over 70 years of data on toad presences collected since their introduction, researchers discovered that cane toads invaded different regions of Australia at dramatically divergent rates. These variable invasion rates appear to be e explained not only by environmental features that facilitate toad movement, but also by the evolution of higher movement rates. Natural selection might cause the evolution of increased movement rates in individuals at the edge of a species' range because the first individuals to arrive can monopolize the best habitats and exclude later arrivals and thus gain an advantage.

"The worrying message from this research is that if control efforts fail and an invasive species spreads across a sufficiently large area," says Mark Urban, "then it may be able to invade a broader region than expected because it has adapted to move across greater distances at the edge of its range."

He adds, "Understanding how environmental and genetic variation affects the movement rates of invading populations will generate better predictions about when an introduced species will arrive in a sensitive ecosystem. Our hope is that this information will help control the expansion of introduced species more effectively in the future."

This research has important implications for the global conservation of endangered species, many of which are threatened by the expanding ranges of introduced plants and animals.

Citation: "A toad more traveled: the heterogeneous invasion dynamics of cane toads in Australia" by Mark C. Urban, Ben L. Phillips, David K. Skelly, and Richard Shine, American Naturalist (171:E134–E148)

Source: University of Chicago

Explore further: Mass deaths of rare Kazakhstan antelopes stir conservation fears

Related Stories

Evolution makes invading species spread even faster

Apr 22, 2015

Today, invasive animals and plants spread all around the globe. Predicting the dynamics of these invasions is of great ecological and socioeconomical interest. Yet studying them is fundamentally challenging ...

Solid data to ensue from citizen app platform

Dec 04, 2013

The burgeoning 'citizen science' movement could be enlisted to survey wildlife right around the world, thanks to a new app designed by a team at Murdoch University.

Cane toad pioneers speed up invasions

Jul 30, 2013

(Phys.org) —Climate change is one of a number of stressors that cause species to disperse to new locations. Scientists must be able to predict dispersal rates accurately, as the movement of a new species ...

Recommended for you

Insect mating behavior has lessons for drones

19 hours ago

Male moths locate females by navigating along the latter's pheromone (odor) plume, often flying hundreds of meters to do so. Two strategies are involved to accomplish this: males must find the outer envelope ...

Bacterial tenants in fungal quarters

May 29, 2015

Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich researchers have sequenced the genome of a bacterial symbiont hosted by a mycorrhizal fungus. Analysis of the symbiont's genetic endowment reveals previously unknown ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.