A famous failure: why were cane toads an ineffective biocontrol in Australia?

Richard Shine*, Georgia Ward-Fear, Gregory P. Brown

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    7 Citations (Scopus)
    160 Downloads (Pure)


    In 1935, cane toads (Rhinella marina) were brought to Australia to control insect pests. The devastating ecological impacts of that introduction have attracted extensive research, but the toads' impact on their original targets has never been evaluated. Our analyses confirm that sugar production did not increase significantly after the anurans were released, possibly because toads reduced rates of predation on beetle pests by consuming some of the native predators of those beetles (ants), fatally poisoning others (varanid lizards), and increasing abundances of crop-eating rodents (that can consume toads without ill-effect). In short, any direct benefit of toads on agricultural production (via consumption of insect pests) likely was outweighed by negative effects that were mediated via the toads' impacts on other taxa. Like the toad's impacts on native wildlife, indirect ecological effects of the invader may have outweighed direct effects of toads on crop production.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article numbere296
    Pages (from-to)1-6
    Number of pages6
    JournalConservation Science and Practice
    Issue number12
    Publication statusPublished - Dec 2020

    Bibliographical note

    Copyright the Author(s) 2020. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


    • agriculture
    • Anura
    • biocontrol
    • Bufo marinus
    • invasive species
    • mesopredator release
    • predation


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