Variation in size and shape of toxin glands among cane toads from native-range and invasive populations

Cameron M. Hudson, Gregory P. Brown, Ryann A. Blennerhassett, Richard Shine*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

If optimal investment in anti-predator defences depends on predation risk, invading new regions (and thus, encountering different predators) may favour shifts in that investment. Cane toads offer an ideal system to test this prediction: expensive anti-predator toxins are stored mainly in parotoid glands whose dimensions are easy to measure, and toad invasions have changed the suites of predators they encounter. Although plasticity may influence parotoid morphology, comparisons between parents and progeny revealed that gland dimensions were highly heritable. That heritability supports the plausibility of an evolved basis to variation in gland dimensions. Measurements of 3779 adult toads show that females have larger glands than males, invasive populations have larger glands than in the native-range, and that parotoid sexual size dimorphism varies strongly among invaded areas. Geographic variation in parotoid morphology may be driven by predation risk to both adult toads and offspring (provisioned with toxins by their mother), with toxins allocated to eggs exacerbating the risk of cannibalism but reducing the risk of interspecific predation. Investment into chemical defences has evolved rapidly during the cane toad’s international diaspora, consistent with the hypothesis that organisms flexibly adjust resource allocation to anti-predator tactics in response to novel challenges.

Original languageEnglish
Article number936
Number of pages11
JournalScientific Reports
Volume11
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 13 Jan 2021

Bibliographical note

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