Toad's tongue for breakfast

exploitation of a novel prey type, the invasive cane toad, by scavenging raptors in tropical Australia

Christa Beckmann*, Richard Shine

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

34 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Although interest in the ecological impacts of invasive species has largely focused on negative effects, some native taxa may benefit from invader arrival. In tropical Australia, invasive cane toads (Bufo marinus) have fatally poisoned many native predators (e. g., marsupials, crocodiles, lizards) that attempt to ingest the toxic anurans, but birds appear to be more resistant to toad toxins. We quantified offtake of dead (road-killed) cane toads by raptors (black kites (Milvus migrans) and whistling kites (Haliastur sphenurus)) at a site near Darwin, in the Australian wet-dry tropics. Raptors readily took dead toads, especially small ones, although native frogs were preferred to toads if available. More carcasses were removed in the dry season than the wet season, perhaps reflecting seasonal availability of alternative prey. Raptors appeared to recognize and avoid bufotoxins, and typically removed and consumed only the toads' tongues (thereby minimizing toxin uptake). The invasion of cane toads thus constitutes a novel prey type for scavenging raptors, rather than (as is the case for many other native predators) a threat to population viability.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1447-1455
Number of pages9
JournalBiological Invasions
Volume13
Issue number6
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2011
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • bufotoxin
  • Chaunus marinus
  • frog
  • invasive species
  • Rhinella marina
  • road-kill

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