Using a native predator (the meat ant, Iridomyrmex reburrus) to reduce the abundance of an invasive species (the cane toad, Bufo marinus) in tropical Australia

Georgia Ward-Fear*, Gregory P. Brown, Richard Shine

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

41 Citations (Scopus)


Invasive species pose ecological threats in many areas, but attempts to control invaders by introducing other exotic species may cause further unanticipated problems. If we can use predators native to the introduced range to assist in control of the invader, the risks of collateral damage are lower. In tropical Australia, high desiccation rates restrict newly-transformed (metamorph) cane toads Bufo marinus to the margins of waterbodies, rendering the metamorphs vulnerable to predatory ants (Iridomyrmex reburrus). By adding bait (catfood) to selected areas, we increased ant densities (and thus, toad mortality) more than fourfold. Over 50% of attacks by ants in the field were immediately fatal to the metamorph toads, and most 'escapee' toads (88%) died of their injuries within 24 h after the attack. When we increased ant densities by artificial baiting, 98% of metamorph toads were encountered, and 84% attacked, within the two-minute observation period. Collateral damage to native fauna appears to be low, but warrants closer examination. Synthesis and applications. Manipulating the foraging locations of native predatory ants can substantially increase their off-take of invasive toads. More generally, vulnerabilities of invasive species to predators native to the introduced range may facilitate control of invader numbers with little collateral damage to the rest of the fauna.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)273-280
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Applied Ecology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • anuran
  • biocontrol
  • biological control
  • predation
  • Rhinella marina

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