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: Rare new species of plant: Stachys caroliniana

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

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 ...

Cane toads can be stopped

Dec 12, 2012

It may be possible to stop the spread of can toads into new areas of Australia according to new research published today in the Journal of Applied Ecology.

Myna 'guity of evicting Aussie birds'

Nov 27, 2012

The common myna – popularly known as 'the cane-toad of the air' – has been convicted on new evidence it is pushing Australian native birds out of their home range.

Recommended for you

Rare new species of plant: Stachys caroliniana

Nov 21, 2014

The exclusive club of explorers who have discovered a rare new species of life isn't restricted to globetrotters traveling to remote locations like the Amazon rainforests, Madagascar or the woodlands of the ...

Mysterious glowworm found in Peruvian rainforest

Nov 21, 2014

(Phys.org) —Wildlife photographer Jeff Cremer has discovered what appears to be a new type of bioluminescent larvae. He told members of the press recently that he was walking near a camp in the Peruvian ...

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.