Is the behavioural divergence between range-core and range-edge populations of cane toads (Rhinella marina) due to evolutionary change or developmental plasticity?

Jodie Gruber*, Gregory Brown, Martin J. Whiting, Richard Shine

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Citations (Scopus)
7 Downloads (Pure)


Individuals at the leading edge of expanding biological invasions often show distinctive phenotypic traits, in ways that enhance their ability to disperse rapidly and to function effectively in novel environments. Cane toads (Rhinella marina) at the invasion front in Australia exhibit shifts in morphology, physiology and behaviour (directionality of dispersal, boldness, risk-taking). We took a common-garden approach, raising toads from range-core and range-edge populations in captivity, to see if the behavioural divergences observed in wild-caught toads are also evident in common-garden offspring. Captive-raised toads from the invasion vanguard population were more exploratory and bolder (more prone to ‘risky’ behaviours) than toads from the range core, which suggests that these are evolved, genetic traits. Our study highlights the importance of behaviour as being potentially adaptive in invasive populations and adds these behavioural traits to the increasing list of phenotypic traits that have evolved rapidly during the toads’ 80-year spread through tropical Australia.

Original languageEnglish
Article number170789
Pages (from-to)1-9
Number of pages9
JournalRoyal Society Open Science
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 25 Oct 2017

Bibliographical note

Copyright the Author(s) 2017. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


  • Adaptation
  • Bufo marinus
  • Evolution
  • Spatial sorting

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