On the fringe of the invasion: the ecology of cane toads in marginally-suitable habitats

Samantha McCann*, Matthew J. Greenlees, Richard Shine

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


Understanding how invasive species flourish under climatic conditions outside those found within their native range can inform management. In southeastern Australia, cane toads (Rhinella marina) are spreading into montane areas cooler than have been predicted to be suitable. We monitored the presence of active toads in two high-elevation sites (750–1010 m above sea level [asl]) and two adjacent low-elevation sites (150–210 m asl) in northeastern New South Wales over spring and summer. We radio-tracked 28 field-collected adult toads (n = 5–9 toads per site) and quantified their thermoregulatory opportunities and body temperatures. Toads were active at low-elevation sites in spring, but were not seen in high-elevation sites until late summer. At low elevations, toads had access to a wide range of temperatures and selected cool diurnal refugia. In montane sites, toads had less control over their temperatures, because thermal differentials between exposed and sheltered microhabitats were smaller. Overall though, body temperatures of toads at high-elevation sites in summer were not different to those of conspecifics at lower elevations in spring. As a result, toads at high elevations moved as far (mean daily displacement around 50 m) as did low-elevation conspecifics. Toads in high elevations spent the day in superficial shelter, often partly exposed. Thus., although toads only appear in high-elevation sites seasonally, their behaviour at those sites (spending the day exposed; moving extensively at night) likely exacerbates their ecological impact by bringing them to the attention of vulnerable native predators.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2729-2737
Number of pages9
JournalBiological Invasions
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • alien species
  • Rhinella marina
  • Bufonidae
  • marginal habitats
  • habitat use
  • thermal biology


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