Factors affecting the vulnerability of cane toads (Bufo marinus) to predation by ants

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

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Citations (Scopus)


Experimental evidence on the determinants of prey vulnerability is scarce, especially for vertebrates in the field. Invasive species offer robust opportunities to explore prey vulnerability, because the intensity of predation on or by such animals has not been eroded by coevolution. Around waterbodies in tropical Australia, native meat ants (Iridomyrmex reburrus) consume many metamorph cane toads (Bufo marinus, an invasive anuran). We document the determinants of toad vulnerability, especially the roles of toad body size and ant density. Larger metamorphs were attacked sooner (because they attracted more ants), but escaped more often. Overall, smaller toads were more likely to be killed. Ant densities influenced toad responses, as well as attack rate and success. Data on the immediate outcomes of attacks underestimate mortality: more than 73% of apparent 'escapees' died within 24 h. Because mortality during this period was independent of toad size, predation was less size selective than suggested by immediate outcomes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)738-751
Number of pages14
JournalBiological Journal of the Linnean Society
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • body size
  • natural selection
  • predator-prey
  • Rhinella marina
  • size-dependent mortality


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