PRATIE PLACE

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Cane toads' favorite meal: cane toads.

Today's tidbit (below) concerning Australian attempts to control the cane toad population is a follow-up to my November 2005 post which read:

There are way, way too many cane toads in Australia, the right number would be zero.
Originally from South America, the cane toad was introduced by the sugar industry in 1935 in a misguided attempt to control two sugarcane pests: the Grey Backed cane beetle and the Frenchie beetle.

Unfortunately, no one noticed that the toad doesn't generally eat these bugs, though it successfully devoured other native insects and micro-fauna to the point of extinction.

Adding insult to ecosystem injury, the poisonous toad instantly kills any predator that attempts to eat it, particularly the quoll, Australia's marsupial cat, and giant native lizards. Its population continues to proliferate, outcompeting native amphibians and spreading disease. More.
A Cane Toads: An Unnatural History is a great movie. I gave it five stars! I particularly liked footage of a cane toad eating all the food out of a dog's bowl as the dog, indignant and terrorized, hovered nearby.


And now to the NEWS FLASH!

Extracts from
Cane Toads Cannibalize Their Young
Anna Salleh, ABC Science Online

Cane toads wiggle their toes to lure their young, then eat them up in an act of cannibalism, Australian researcher has found.

The young toads move towards the adults, possibly mistaking the wiggling toes for a tasty morsel, like an insect. Instead the youngsters themselves end up as the tasty morsel. But harnessing this cannibalistic behavior may have some benefits, at least in Australia, where cane toads are an invasive pest.

Scientists say it could be the key to getting cane toads to eat themselves out of existence.

Researchers wondered whether this toe waving is an adaptation for cannibalistic behavior and set up an experiment to check.

Toads were separated by clear glass and not allowed to eat each other because it would have gone against the rules of ethical animal experimentation. The researchers found that baby toads only move towards adults that wave their toes.

... The researchers also used freeze-dried toad to which they attached mechanically controlled fake toes...

... Outnumbering female toads with males would increase the number of female toads drowned by numerous males trying to copulate with them in the water...


Cane toads, from Smithsonian magazine. "An Australian taxidermist is recycling cane toads by filling them with plaster and turning them into paper weights."

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