Living up to its name? The effect of salinity on development, growth, and phenotype of the “marine” toad (Rhinella marina)

Uditha Wijethunga, Matthew Greenlees*, Richard Shine

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)


The highly permeable integument of amphibians renders them vulnerable to chemical characteristics of their environment, especially during the aquatic larval stage. As the cane toad (Rhinella marina, Bufonidae) invades southwards along the east coast of Australia, it is encountering waterbodies with highly variable conditions of temperature, pH, and salinity. Understanding the tolerance of toads to these conditions can clarify the likely further spread of the invader, as well as the adaptability of the species to novel environmental challenges. We measured salinity in waterbodies in the field and conducted laboratory trials to investigate the impacts of salinity on toad viability. Eggs and tadpoles from the southern invasion front tolerated the most saline conditions we found in potential spawning ponds during surveys [equivalent to 1200 ppm (3.5 % the salinity of seawater)]. Indeed, high-salinity treatments increased tadpole body sizes, accelerated metamorphosis, and improved locomotor ability of metamorphs (but did not affect metamorph morphology). At very low salinity [40 ppm (0.1 % seawater)], eggs hatched but larvae did not develop past Gosner stage 37. Our study shows that the egg and larval life stages of cane toads can tolerate wide variation in the salinity of natal ponds and that this aspect of waterbody chemistry is likely to facilitate rather than constrain continued southward expansion of the toad invasion front in eastern Australia.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)205-213
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Comparative Physiology B: Biochemical, Systemic, and Environmental Physiology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • anura
  • biological invasion
  • Bufo marinus
  • larval osmoregulation
  • salt tolerance


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