Ecological immunization: in situ training of free-ranging predatory lizards reduces their vulnerability to invasive toxic prey

G. Ward-Fear, D. J. Pearson, G. P. Brown, Balanggarra Rangers, R. Shine*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

In Australia, large native predators are fatally poisoned when they ingest invasive cane toads (Rhinella marina). As a result, the spread of cane toads has caused catastrophic population declines in these predators. Immediately prior to the arrival of toads at a floodplain in the Kimberley region,we induced conditioned taste aversion in free-ranging varanid lizards (Varanus panoptes), by offering them small cane toads. By the end of the 18-month study, only one of 31 untrained lizards had survived longer than 110 days, compared to more than half (nine of 16) of trained lizards; the maximum known survival of a trained lizard in the presence of toads was 482 days. In situ aversion training (releasing small toads in advance of the main invasion front) offers a logistically simple and feasible way to buffer the impact of invasive toads on apex predators.

Original languageEnglish
Article number20150863
Pages (from-to)1-4
Number of pages4
JournalBiology Letters
Volume12
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 31 Jan 2016
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • invasive species
  • Bufo marinus
  • taste aversion
  • conditioned taste aversion
  • ecological impact
  • varanid

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