Warmer is better: Invasive cane toads set to thrive under global warming

July 1, 2010, Society for Experimental Biology

As global warming threatens many animal species with extinction, the cane toad is set to flourish with increasing temperature. This is a major cause for concern as the cane toad, once introduced to Australia as agricultural pest-control of the cane beetle, is an already highly invasive species and considered a pest in Australia. The researchers present their new findings at the Society for Experimental Biology Annual Conference in Prague on Friday, July 2, 2010.

"The negative effect of high temperature does not operate in Cane Toads, meaning that toads will do very well with human induced global warming", explains Professor Frank Seebacher from the University of Sydney.

Unlike fish and other cold-blooded creatures, whose transport system suffers at , the cardiovascular system (heart and lungs) of Cane Toads performs more efficiently.

The researchers present their new findings at the Society for Experimental Biology Annual Conference in Prague on Friday 2nd July 2010.

When tested over an ambient temperature range of 20 - 30 ˚C, Cane Toads acclimatised perfectly to increased temperatures and resting oxygen demands remained constant.

Furthermore, the efficiency of the oxygen transport system in the Cane Toad increased with increasing temperature, showing not only an ability to function over a broad thermal range but remarkably, a preference for higher temperatures.

This is in contrast to previous studies suggesting an increase in temperature results in a higher basic oxygen demand, coupled with decreased efficiency of the circulation system, leading to oxygen starvation.

"Warmer temperatures are advantageous and there is no indication that high temperatures limit oxygen delivery", explained Professor Seebacher.

The scientists say this positive effect may also apply to other anurans (the class of amphibians that includes frogs and ), but more research needs to be done to find out.

"The impact of doesn't have to be negative. Global average temperatures at present may in fact be cooler than many animals would like", explained Professor Seebacher.

"There will be winners and there will be losers but that needs to be judged on a species by species basis", added Dr Craig Franklin, co-author of the research.

The Cane Toad can adapt its physiology in response to a changing environment repeatedly and completely reversibly many times during its lifetime.

Originally introduced as agricultural pest-control due to its voracious appetite for the Cane Beetle, populations have now escalated out of control. The skin of the is toxic and deadly when ingested by other animals, many of them native predators.

Explore further: Racing cane toads reveals they get cold feet on Southern Australia invasion

Related Stories

Invasion of the cane toads

February 27, 2008

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 ...

Aussie meat ants may be invasive cane toad's Achilles' heel

March 30, 2009

Ecologists in Australia have discovered that cane toads are far more susceptible to being killed and eaten by meat ants than native frogs. Their research - published in the British Ecological Society's journal Functional ...

Recommended for you

DNA islands effective as 'anti-bacterial drones'

September 24, 2018

Genomic "islands" that evolved from viruses can be converted into "drones" that disable Staphylococcus aureus, bacteria that are often resistant to antibiotics and pose a threat to safe hospital care, a new study finds.

Custom circuits for living cells

September 24, 2018

A team of Caltech researchers has developed a biological toolkit of proteins that can be assembled together in different ways, like Legos, to program new behaviors in cells. As a proof-of-concept, they designed and constructed ...

Burst of morning gene activity tells plants when to flower

September 24, 2018

For angiosperms—or flowering plants—one of the most important decisions facing them each year is when to flower. It is no trivial undertaking. To flower, they must cease vegetative growth and commit to making those energetically ...

Silver fox study reveals genetic clues to social behavior

September 24, 2018

In 1959, Russian scientists began an experiment to breed a population of silver foxes, selecting and breeding foxes that exhibited friendliness toward people. They wanted to know if they could repeat the adaptations for tameness ...


Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

not rated yet Jul 01, 2010
"The impact of global warming doesn't have to be negative. Global average temperatures at present may in fact be cooler than many animals would like", explained Professor Seebacher.

Sometimes I wonder, about the people not about the cane toads. Animals live where they can when they can. If they cant live because it is too hot or too cold then they don't. Global temperature changes affect only animals that cannot move with the optimal climate or cannot survive during the worst part of the year where they do live.

For most animals a change of one or two degrees means nothing as they put up with more than that throughout the course of the year anyway. Most animals live in climates where the annual temperature fluctuates by upwards of 20 degrees.

For those animals living precariously in an unsuitable climate then changes for the worst may be either higher or lower temperatures, depending on their current problems.
not rated yet Jul 01, 2010
The main way that animals suffer when global temperatures change is when the animals have a limited range and cannot migrate to more suitable locations. This would generally include animals already on the brink of extinction and animals living in limited isolated locations surrounded by unsuitable habitat.

The age of man and the extinctions of most animals on the planet is because we are creating more and more isolated habitats surrounded by uninhabitable wastelands through which the animals cannot migrate.

The same can be said for the plants as well. Couple this with redistribution of many competitors and alternate plants and animals to new habitats where the indigenous populations will have difficulty integrating and we introduce that other factor. Many creatures are living in stressed environments on the brink of extinction and any small change will be enough to push them over the edge.
not rated yet Jul 01, 2010
Cane toads in Australia do not fall into any of the above categories and are not likely to suffer by any changes of temperature either up 5 degrees or down 5 degrees on a global average. Cane toads living with no predators and open slather population explosion without disease or competitors are only limited by competition with other cane toads and the environment.

Since the habitat of the cane toads in Australia extends for about several million square miles and across a huge range of climate from dry to wet to hot to mild it would be easy to see that climate change is no threat at all.
1 / 5 (1) Jul 02, 2010
The premise that warming will occur is nice, but apparently false. Temperatures are stable or falling slightly, contrary to the massive IPCC campaign of failed predictions. Where cane toads are exotic and have no predators or control, high or low temperature will have little or no effect on their population. The global warming hook is included to tune up a run-of-the-mill study.

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.