Interacting impacts of invasive plants and invasive toads on native lizards

Samantha J. Price-Rees, Gregory P. Brown, Richard Shine*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)
103 Downloads (Pure)


The ecological impacts of an invasive species may be reduced by prior invasions if selective pressures imposed by earlier events preadapt the native biota to deal with the newer arrival. In northwestern Australia, invasion of the cane toad (Rhinella marina) kills many native predators if they ingest the highly toxic toads. Remarkably, the toads' defensive toxins (bufadienolides) are chemically similar to those of another invasive species: an ornamental plant from Madagascar, Bryophyllum spp. (Crassulaceae, mother-ofmillions). Omnivorous lizards (bluetongue skinks, Tiliqua scincoides) are imperiled by the invasion of toads in northwestern Australia, but conspecifics from other areas of the continent (those where exotic plants were introduced and including areas where toads have yet to invade) are less affected because they exhibit higher physiological tolerance of toad toxins (and also of plant toxins). The willingness of captive bluetongues to consume both toads and these plants and the high correlation in the lizards' sensitivity to toad toxins versus plant toxins suggest that exotic plants may have imposed strong selection on the lizards' physiological tolerance of bufadienolides. Asa result, populations of lizards from areas previously exposed to these alien plants may be preadapted to deal with the toxins of the more recent anuran invader.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)413-422
Number of pages10
JournalAmerican Naturalist
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2012
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Copyright 2012 by University of Chicago Press. Originally published in Samantha J. Price-Rees, Gregory P. Brown, and Richard Shine, "Interacting Impacts of Invasive Plants and Invasive Toads on Native Lizards.," The American Naturalist 179, no. 3 (March 2012): 413-422.


  • Bufo marinus
  • ecological impact
  • invasion
  • preadaptation


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