Foraging tactics of an ambush predator

the effects of substrate attributes on prey availability and predator feeding success

Edna González-Bernal, Gregory P. Brown, Elisa Cabrera-Guzmán, Richard Shine*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

19 Citations (Scopus)


The foraging sites selected by an ambush forager can strongly affect its feeding opportunities. Foraging cane toads (Rhinella marina) typically select open areas, often under artificial lights that attract insects. We conducted experimental trials in the field, using rubber mats placed under lights, to explore the influence of substrate color and rugosity on prey availability (numbers, sizes, and types of insects) and toad foraging success. A mat's color (black vs. white) and rugosity (smooth vs. rough) did not influence the numbers, sizes, or kinds of insects that were attracted to it, but toads actively preferred to feed on rugose white mats (50% of prey-capture events, vs. a null of 25%). White backgrounds provided better visual contrast of the (mostly dark) insects, and manipulations of prey color in the laboratory showed that contrast was critical in toad foraging success. Insects landing on rugose backgrounds were slower to leave, again increasing capture opportunities for toads. Thus, cane toads actively select backgrounds that maximize prey-capture opportunities, a bias driven by the ways that substrate attributes influence ease of prey detection and capture rather than by absolute prey densities.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1367-1375
Number of pages9
JournalBehavioral Ecology and Sociobiology
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • foraging success
  • prey choice
  • prey selection
  • Bufo marinus
  • sit-and-wait predation

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