Saturday, November 20, 2010

An Unwanted Amphibian

The Cane Toad, or Bufo marinus, is native to Central and Southern America, but was introduced to Australia and other countries in an attempt to control insect populations. Before its dispersal by humans, cane toads lived in subtropical forests near freshwater. As far as behavior is concerned, males will attract females with calls that resemble high-pitched telephone dial tones. This type of toad will eat just about anything it can ingest, including birds, lizards, frogs, and even dog and cat food. An interesting characteristic about them is that their heads appear swollen due to the large parotid glands that secrete dangerous poison to all species.
The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) has explored the use of gene technology to decrease cane toad populations in Australia since they significantly hinder the country's ecology. After the toads' goal for eliminating two species of beetles that infested sugar cane populations turned ineffective, the toads continued to grow in population and spread across the country. Unfortunately, the gene technology approach was unsuccessful, with scientists being unable to reduce cane toad persistence. Funding for this project has ceased, but hopefully further information will be released soon on how to regulate these very poisonous pests.
More on the gene technology can be found at:


  1. I did not get a picture of one of these at the zoo.

  2. Its always sad to see the effects of human introduced invasive species. Hopefully control efforts can be developed and adopted into common practice.

  3. It was interesting to learn in last week's visiting environmental science lecture that most introduced species of lady beetles have not been able to establish themselves in the Midwest. Most non-natives are not successful, but when one is it can be a disaster.