Wildlife Research Wildlife Research Society
Ecology, management and conservation in natural and modified habitats

Australian tadpoles do not avoid chemical cues from invasive cane toads (Bufo marinus)

Mattias Hagman A B and Richard Shine A
+ Author Affliations
- Author Affliations

A School of Biological Sciences A08, University of Sydney, NSW 2006, Australia.

B Corresponding author. Email: mattias.hagman@bio.usyd.edu.au

Wildlife Research 35(1) 59-64 https://doi.org/10.1071/WR07113
Submitted: 14 August 2007  Accepted: 6 February 2008   Published: 17 March 2008


If invasive species are phylogenetically distinct from native taxa, divergence in intraspecific communication systems may allow control via methods that invoke behavioural responses by the invasives but not by local species. Previous work has exploited sexual signals in this respect (e.g. species-specific mate-attraction pheromones) but there is equal potential to exploit non-sexual signals, such as chemically mediated behavioural responses of anuran larvae. Cane toads (Bufo marinus), originally from Central and South America, are creating major ecological problems during their invasion through Australia. In an earlier study, we showed that cane toad tadpoles are strongly repulsed by chemical cues from crushed conspecifics, suggesting that these animals possess significant chemical communication systems. To be useful in control of toads, such a response would need to be restricted to cane toads rather than all anurans. In laboratory trials, we detected only minor behavioural responses of six native Australian anuran species to chemical cues from cane toads. Native tadpoles (both hylids and myobatrachids) either ignored the stimulus, or tended to approach it rather than to avoid it. These results are encouraging for the potential use of toad-specific chemicals to manipulate the behaviour of tadpoles in the field, with few collateral effects on native Australian anurans.


We thank the Department of Environment and Heritage and the Australian Research Council for funding. Frank Lemckert and Kris Rogers helped us collect frog spawn. Travis Child, Melanie Elphick and Sam Ruggeri provided technical assistance and help with animal husbandry. Isabel Walter translated papers from German. The study was approved by the University of Sydney Animal Care and Ethics Committee (approval no. L04/5-2004/3/3908),


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