Factors influencing responses to alarm pheromone by larvae of invasive cane toads, Bufo marinus

Mattias Hagman, Richard Shine*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Citations (Scopus)


If pheromonal communication systems of invasive species differ from those of native biota, it may be possible to control the invader by exploiting that difference. When injured, the larvae of cane toads, Bufo marinus, an invasive species of major concern in tropical Australia, produce species-specific chemical cues that alert conspecific tadpoles to danger. Repeated exposure to the alarm chemical reduces tadpole survival rates and body sizes at metamorphosis and, thus, could help control toad populations. To evaluate the feasibility of this approach, we need to know how the intensity of toad tadpole response to the alarm chemical is affected by factors such as water temperature, time of day, larval stage and feeding history, geographic origin of the tadpoles, and habituation. Information on these topics may enable us to optimize deployment, so that tadpoles encounter pheromone at the times and places that confer maximum effect. In our studies, tadpole density, nutritional state, larval stage, and geographic origin had little effect on the intensity of the alarm response, but tadpoles reacted most strongly in higher water temperatures and during daylight hours. Repeated, once-daily exposure to pheromone did not induce habituation, but repeated exposure at 15-min intervals did not elicit further responses after 2 h total exposure. The insensitivity of response to most factors tested means that the effectiveness of the pheromone as a control agent should be relatively robust.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)265-271
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Chemical Ecology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • alarm pheromone
  • anuran
  • biological control
  • chemical communication
  • invasive species


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