Native Australian frogs avoid the scent of invasive cane toads

Invasive species can affect the ecosystems they colonize by modifying the behaviour of native taxa; for example, avoidance of chemical cues from the invader may modify habitat use (shelter site selection) by native species. In laboratory trials, we show that metamorphs of most (but not all) native frog species on a tropical Australian floodplain avoid the scent of invasive cane toads (Bufo marinus Linnaeus 1758). Cane toads also avoid conspecific scent. This response might reduce vulnerability of metamorph frogs and toads to larger predatory toads. However, similar avoidance of one type of pungency control (garlic), and the presence of this avoidance behaviour in frogs at the toad invasion front (and hence, with no prior exposure to toads), suggest that this may not be an evolved toad-specific response. Instead, our data support the simpler hypothesis that the metamorph anurans tend to avoid shelter sites that contain strong and unfamiliar scents. Temporal and spatial differences in activity of frogs versus toads, plus the abundance of suitable retreat sites during the wet season (the primary time of frog activity), suggest that avoiding toad scent will have only a minor impact on the behaviour of native frogs. However, this behavioural impact may be important when environmental conditions bring toads and frogs into closer contact.

Date 12/01/2009
Year 2009
Secondary title Austral Ecology
Volume 34
Number 1
Institution University of Sydney
Department School of Biological Sciences
Pages 77-82
Notes Notes
ISBN/ISSN DOI: 10.1111/j.1442-9993.2008.01886.x