Toads in the backyard

why do invasive cane toads (Rhinella marina) prefer buildings to bushland?

Edna González-Bernal*, Matthew J. Greenlees, Gregory P. Brown, Richard Shine

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

19 Citations (Scopus)


Like many invasive species, cane toads (Rhinella marina) in Australia concentrate in the disturbed habitats created by human activity, rather than in pristine areas. We surveyed cane toads in the wet–dry tropics of the Northern Territory to assess the abundances, body sizes, sexes, behaviour, hydration state and feeding rates of toads around buildings compared to those in areas remote from buildings, and conducted experimental trials to assess the effects of building-related variables (lights and increased toad densities) on the foraging success of toads. Toads around buildings were smaller than bushland conspecifics, and adult sex-ratios were female-biased. Toads were more sedentary around buildings than in the bush, but their feeding rates (based on direct observations and faeces production post-capture) were similar. That similarity, despite twofold-higher densities of competing toads around building, reflected the strong enhancement of feeding rates due to artificial lights attracting insects (in our experimental trials, a threefold increase regardless of the number of competing toads). Toads collected from around buildings were apparently in better hydric condition. Thus, access to water also may attract toads to buildings. The relative scarcity of adult male toads around buildings likely reflects waterbody-centred reproductive activities, whereas the concentration of females and juveniles around buildings is driven largely by access to the insects attracted by artificial light. We conclude that buildings enhance the persistence of cane toad populations and may facilitate their spread.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)293-302
Number of pages10
JournalPopulation Ecology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • artificial light
  • habitat use
  • human disturbed sites
  • invasive species
  • seasonality

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Toads in the backyard: why do invasive cane toads (<i>Rhinella marina</i>) prefer buildings to bushland?'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this