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Invasive Species in a Globalized WorldEcological, Social, and Legal Perspectives on Policy$
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Reuben P. Keller, Marc W. Cadotte, and Glenn Sandiford

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780226166049

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: May 2015

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226166216.001.0001

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The Ecological, Evolutionary, and Social Impact of Invasive Cane Toads in Australia

The Ecological, Evolutionary, and Social Impact of Invasive Cane Toads in Australia

(p.23) Chapter Two The Ecological, Evolutionary, and Social Impact of Invasive Cane Toads in Australia
Invasive Species in a Globalized World

Richard Shine

University of Chicago Press

Cane toads (Rhinella marina) are large toxic anurans native to South and Central America, and introduced to tropical Australia in 1935 in the futile hope that they would help control insect pests in commercial sugar-cane plantations. Because Australia lacks native toads, the ecological impact of cane toads has been devastating for some species of native predators (snakes, lizards, crocodiles, marsupial carnivores) that attempt to eat toads, and are killed by the toads’ powerful poisons. The process of biological invasion has imposed strong evolutionary pressures on the toads, with genes for more rapid dispersal accumulating at the invasion front; and thus the toad front is now advancing much faster than before. Vulnerable native predators have adapted to the toad’s presence, with shifts in feeding responses, physiological tolerance to toad toxins, and even body shape (relative head size). Intense public interest in toads and their impacts has spawned vigorous (and competing) community-based attempts to combat toad invasion, creating a political firestorm in which scientific approaches to toad biology must confront populist opinions. The cane toad invasion of Australia provides an unusually well-documented case of the ways in which a single introduced species has substantial direct effects, and generates adaptive responses via multiple pathways, both in native fauna and human society.

Keywords:   cane toad, Rhinella marina, Bufo marinus, evolution, predation, tropical, invasive species

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