An invasive species imposes selection on life-history traits of a native frog

Matthew J. Greenlees*, Benjamin L. Phillips, Richard Shine

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)


As well as their direct ecological impacts on native taxa, invasive species can impose selection on phenotypic attributes (morphology, physiology, behaviour, etc.) of the native fauna. In anurans, body size at metamorphosis is a critical life-history trait: for most challenges faced by post-metamorphic anurans, larger size at metamorphosis probably enhances survival. However, our studies on Australian frogs (Limnodynastes convexiusculus) show that this pattern can be reversed by the arrival of an invasive species. When metamorph frogs first encounter invasive cane toads (Bufo marinus), they try to eat the toxic invader and, if they are able to do so, are likely to die from poisoning. Because frogs are gape-limited predators, small metamorphs cannot ingest a toad and thus survive long enough to disperse away from the natal pond (and thus from potentially deadly toads). These data show that larger size at metamorphosis can reduce rather than increase anuran survival rates, because larger metamorphs are more easily able to ingest (and thus be poisoned by) metamorph cane toads. Our results suggest that patterns of selection on life-history traits of native taxa (such as size and age at metamorphosis, seasonal timing of breeding and duration of pondside aggregation prior to dispersal) can be modified by the arrival of an invasive species.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)329-336
Number of pages8
JournalBiological Journal of the Linnean Society
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • body size
  • Bufo marinus
  • cane toad
  • gape limitation
  • predator-prey


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