Encounters between freshwater crocodiles and invasive cane toads in north-western Australia: does context determine impact?

Gregory S. Clarke*, Cameron M. Hudson, Richard Shine

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

The potent defensive chemicals of cane toads (Rhinella marina) protect them against predators that lack coevolved physiological tolerance to those toxins. That relative invulnerability may explain why major injuries (such as limb loss) appear to be rare in cane toads from most of their global range; however, we noted frequent predator-induced injuries (>4% of adults) in samples from within the toad's native range (in French Guiana) and from a site (Lake Argyle) in north-western Australia. Toads at Lake Argyle enter the edge of the lake at night to rehydrate, exposing them to foraging freshwater crocodiles (Crocodylus johnstoni). Crocodiles rarely consume toads, but the attacks often result in loss of a limb. Because limbs contain relatively little toxin, attacks to the limbs expose a crocodile to nauseating but non-lethal amounts of toxin; and hence, facilitate taste aversion learning by the predator. The context of the encounters, such as differences in geography, may help to explain why the invasion of cane toads has not significantly impacted on crocodile populations at this site, in contrast to heavy impacts reported from nearby riverine systems.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)94-101
Number of pages8
JournalAustralian Zoologist
Volume41
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2020
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Bufo marinus
  • Impacts
  • Invader effects
  • Non-lethal injuries
  • Taste aversion

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