Chemical cues that attract cannibalistic cane toad (Rhinella marina) larvae to vulnerable embryos

Michael R. Crossland, Angela A. Salim, Robert J. Capon, Richard Shine*

*Corresponding author for this work

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Chemical cues produced by late-stage embryos of the cane toad (Rhinella marina) attract older conspecific larvae, which are highly cannibalistic and can consume an entire clutch. To clarify the molecular basis of this attraction response, we presented captive tadpoles with components present in toad eggs. As previously reported, attractivity arises from the distinctive toxins (bufadienolides) produced by cane toads, with some toxins (e.g., bufagenins) much stronger attractants than others (e.g., bufotoxins). Extracts of frozen toad parotoid glands (rich in bufagenins) were more attractive than were fresh MeOH extracts of the parotoid secretion (rich in bufotoxins), and purified marinobufagin was more effective than marinobufotoxin. Cardenolide aglycones (e.g., digitoxigenin) were active attractors, whereas C-3 glycosides (e.g., digoxin, oubain) were far less effective. A structure–activity relationship study revealed that tadpole attractant potency strongly correlated with Na+/K+ ATPase inhibitory activity, suggesting that tadpoles monitor and rapidly react to perturbations to Na+/K+ ATPase activity.

Original languageEnglish
Article number12527
Pages (from-to)1-8
Number of pages8
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jun 2021

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Copyright the Author(s) 2021. 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.


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