No evidence for cold-adapted life-history traits in cool-climate populations of invasive cane toads (Rhinella marina)

Uditha Wijethunga, Matthew Greenlees, Melanie Elphick, Richard Shine*

*Corresponding author for this work

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As an invasive organism spreads into a novel environment, it may encounter strong selective pressures to adapt to abiotic and biotic challenges. We examined the effect of water temperature during larval life on rates of survival and growth of the early life-history stages of cane toads (Rhinella marina) from two geographic regions (tropical vs. temperate) in the species’ invaded range in eastern Australia. If local adaptation at the southern (cool-climate) invasion front has extended the cold-tolerance of early life-stages, we would expect to see higher viability of southern-population toads under cooler conditions. Our comparisons revealed no such divergence: the effects of water temperature on rates of larval survival and growth, time to metamorphosis, size at metamorphosis and locomotor performance of metamorphs were similar in both sets of populations. In two cases where tropical and temperate-zone populations diverged in responses to temperature, the tropical animals performed better at low to medium temperatures than did conspecifics from cooler regions. Adaptation to low temperatures in the south might be constrained by behavioural shifts (e.g., in reproductive seasonality, spawning-site selection) that allow toads to breed in warmer water even in cool climates, by gene flow from warmer-climate populations, or by phylogenetic conservatism in these traits.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0266708
Pages (from-to)1-10
Number of pages10
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 7 Apr 2022

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