Selectively targeting toads

Posted on September 26, 2009


The cane toad (Bufo marinus), a native of Central &South America, has been introduced to over thirty countries around the world to control insect pests.  However it has turned into a serious environmental problem itself, mainly because it is highly toxic and poisons native predators.  Managing the cane toad threat is a major challenge, but help may be at hand in the form of pheromone-based control agents.  As with other species of toads and frogs, cane toad tadpoles communicate using chemical cues, and lab tests showed that they fled when extracts from the bodies of tadpoles of the same species were added to their water.  The same chemicals also reduce tadpole survival rate.  Crucially, chemical communication seems to be species-specific because tadpoles of fifteen native Australian species of frogs did not respond to the cane toad extract, which raises the possibility of developing a biological control agent that selectively targets invasive toads.

References: 

Hagman M. & Shine R. 2008. Australian tadpoles do not avoid chemical cues from invasive cane toads (Bufo marinus).  Wildlife Research 35A, 59–64.

Hagman M. & Shine R. 2009.  Species-specific communication systems in an introduced toad compared with native frogs in Australia.  Aquatic Conservation: Marine & Freshwater Ecosystems 19, 724–728.

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