What Can Stop the Cane Toad's Onslaught in Australia? A Cold Snap.

By Eliza Strickland | August 28, 2008 6:45 pm

cane toadCane toads, the green and warty invasive animals that are spreading ruin throughout ecosystems in northern Australia, may not continue their relentless march southward towards the sea. According to a new study, lower temperatures in the south may stop the toads in their tracks.

Researchers coaxed the toads into hopping through a 2-meter course in a laboratory to make a so-called “cane toad Olympics,” and measured the cold-blooded creatures’ hops at different temperatures. They found that in temperatures above 80 degrees Fahrenheit, the toads could hop at a speed of over one mile per hour. But below 60 degrees Fahrenheit, they slowed to a glacial .2 miles per hour. “This means that there’s no way the toads could invade southern parts like Melbourne, Adelaide … because they wouldn’t be able to move,” said researcher Dr Michael Kearney…. The winters of southern Australia would be too cold for the cane toads to forage or spawn, he said [The Age].

Originally introduced to north-eastern Australia as pest control agents, these warty and poisonous amphibians are explosive breeders. They have now overstayed their welcome as they pose a threat to the country’s native wildlife [BBC News]. Even since the poisonous toads were introduced to the continent in the 1930s, they have played havoc with the ecosystem both by competing with native species for food, and by poisoning snakes, lizards, and birds that try to feed on them.

The new study, published in the journal Ecography, will allow residents of the Australian cities Melbourne and Adelaide to relax for now, but researchers do note that the future is uncertain: The toads’ only hope is global warming, which could allow them to move [60 miles] farther south than their present limit by 2050 [The Times].

Image: flickr/Stephen Barnett

  • Uncle B

    “The only thing that can save Canadian Pine forests from dessimation by the Pine Beatles is a long period of very cold weather in the winter months.” Sound familiar? Some times I wish the V-8 engine for cars had never been invented, other times the sound of a jet plane taking off gives me a sick stomach. We have to hold back global warming at all costs, even by embarrassing the American life style and people into acknowledgment for their horrendous fossil fuel record. Watching someone driving a Hummer to get a pack of smokes is just too much for me – somebody has to say Shame! It is time for the advertisers to know that we can boycott their products if they promote an environmentally damaging image in them, it is time for a paradigm shift in values by the common folk of the world. We need to develop a common philosophy and speak out while there is still hope. Corporations go where the money is – we hold the purse-strings! We need an uprising of common folk for common sense lives.

  • http://deleted High School Girl

    If it’s the poison these toads secrete that makes them so dangerous, then have they tried making antibodies for it yet? To make antivenom for snake bites, scientists injected nonlethat amounts of venom into horses so they would make antibodies to fight the venom. The horses eventually became immune and humans used the process of injecting venom into themselve to gain immunity as well. Could a similar technique be used to aquire immunity or at least an antivenom in reguard to Cane Toads? Is the toad’s poison very different from snake venom? Could they immunize local species? Would the immunization be passed on to offspring if successful?

  • Wombat

    That’s a decent idea High School Girl, but if we took that approach then you could also immunise yourself against cyanide.

  • http://www.afuzu.com Fuzu

    Ooh oops i just wrote a huge comment and when i hit post it came up blank! Please please tell me it worked right? I dont want to sumit it again if i dont have to! Either the blog glitced out or i am just stuipd, the second option doesnt surprise me lol.

  • http://nicefood.blogpad.at/ wendy b. gongora

    Hi just figured i would let you know that i had a issue with this blog coming up frozen as well. Might be gremlins in the page.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/80beats/2008/08/28/what-can-stop-the-cane-toads-onslaught-in-australia-a-cold-snap/ Kenneth Hilliam

    I sent in about 30+ ideas to the Cane Toad Abatement Plan, I am waiting for the June 16, 2010 deadline for feedback. Other people should try to submit ideas.

    It is worth the effort to try. I only heard of Cane Toads in late March 2010 because some scientists took time to write to me because I was looking for someone to listen to my croc catching ideas.

    Some Internet sites say that Cane toads are in Florida and moving in other South American countries so if this true then this is becoming a larger issue.

    I have ideas to catch crocs safely and more economically. I am going to try , others in croc areas have better opportunities to meet with rangers. People often improve existing ones, someone will probably change mine.
    From Canada Kenneth Hilliam writekenneth@hotmail.com

  • Bruce Coombes

    I come from Qld now living in WA i think they must be chasing me . When i was young we used to kill the cane toad all the time and in not so humain way either but one thing we found is that detol killed them very quickly and it was humain so to my thinking something in the detol that kills them so if we find what it is and if this doesn`t hurt other flora or fauna we should be able to spray this around as a poision to aradicate them

  • http://learninternetbusinesstoday.com/ Learn Internet Business

    Hi! After i originally commented I clicked the -Notify me when new comments are added- checkbox and now whenever a comment is added I buy four emails sticking with the same comment. Will there be in whatever way it is possible to remove me from that service? Thanks!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100003406593435 Asep

    Like you, I think it is a frog. Looks very like those we get in our garden, thoguh I am not aware of ever having seen a toad. Thought you might like this quote from David Attenborough: In temperate parts of the world, there are two kinds of anurans: those with smooth moist skins which we call frogs, and those with dryer more warty skins, the toads. The distinction, however, is little more than skin deep. There you have it!


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