The Ecological Impact of the Invasive Cane Toad

The Cane Toad, also known as the giant neotropical toad or marine toad, is a large, terrestrial true toad native to South and mainland Central America. However, it has been introduced to various islands throughout Oceania and the Caribbean, as well as Northern Australia. The cane toad is a member of the genus Rhinella, which includes many true toad species found throughout Central and South America. The species is an old one, with fossils dating back to the late Miocene in Colombia indistinguishable from modern cane toads from northern South America.

Reproduction and Feeding Habits

  • The cane toad is a prolific breeder; females lay single-clump spawns with thousands of eggs. Its reproductive success is partly because of opportunistic feeding: it has a diet, unusual among anurans, of both dead and living matter. Adults average 10–15 cm (4–6 in) in length; the largest recorded specimen had a snout-vent length of 24 cm (9.4 in).

Toxicity and Ecological Impact

  • The cane toad has poison glands, and the tadpoles are highly toxic to most animals if ingested. Its toxic skin can kill many animals, both wild and domesticated, and cane toads are particularly dangerous to dogs. Because of its voracious appetite, the cane toad has been introduced to many regions of the Pacific and the Caribbean islands as a method of agricultural pest control.
  • The common name of the species is derived from its use against the cane beetle (Dermolepida albohirtum), which damages sugar cane. The cane toad is now considered a pest and an invasive species in many of its introduced regions. The 1988 film Cane Toads: An Unnatural History documented the trials and tribulations of the introduction of cane toads in Australia.

Toadzilla: The Record-Breaking Cane Toad

  • Australian park rangers recently stumbled upon a record-breaking giant cane toad deep in a rainforest. Dubbed “Toadzilla”, the cane toad, an invasive species that poses a threat to Australia’s ecosystem, was spotted by park ranger Kylee Gray during a patrol in Conway National Park in Queensland state on Jan. 12. Gray and her colleagues caught the animal and brought it back to their office, where it weighed in at a 2.7 kg (6 pounds). Guinness World Records lists the largest toad at 2.65 kg (5.8 pounds), a 1991 record set by a Swedish pet.

Synopsis

Cane toads were introduced to Australia in 1935 to control cane beetles and other pests. However, their population has exploded and with no natural predators, they have become a threat to Australian species. The species have a high reproduction rate and all parts of the cane toad’s breeding cycle are poisonous to Australian native species. Toadzilla, the record-breaking cane toad was caught and euthanized due to its ecological impact. The body was donated to the Queensland Museum for research.

Written by IAS POINT

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