Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Aussie Meat Ants May Be Invasive Cane Toad's Achilles' Heel

Date:
April 1, 2009
Source:
Wiley-Blackwell
Summary:
Ecologists in Australia have discovered that cane toads are far more susceptible to being killed and eaten by meat ants than native frogs. Their research reveals a chink in the cane toad's armor that could help control the spread of this alien invasive species in tropical Australia.

Ecologists in Australia have discovered that cane toads are far more susceptible to being killed and eaten by meat ants than native frogs. Their research – published in the British Ecological Society's journal Functional Ecology – reveals a chink in the cane toad's armour that could help control the spread of this alien invasive species in tropical Australia.

Professor Rick Shine and his colleagues Georgia Ward-Fear, Matt Greenlees and Greg Brown from the University of Sydney's Team Bufo (from the Latin name for the toxic toad) compared habitat use and activity patterns in meat ants, metamorph cane toads and seven native Australian frog species. They found that, unlike the native frogs, cane toads are poorly equipped to escape the meat ants.

According to Shine: "The spread of cane toads through tropical Australia has created major ecological problems. The ideal way to control toad numbers would be to find a predator that kills and eats toads but leaves native frogs alone. However, bringing in a predator from overseas might have catastrophic consequences, like those that occurred when cane toads themselves were brought in. So we've explored an alternative approach – to see if we could use a native predator. Meat ants are abundant around tropical waterbodies, and we often see them eating small toads, so we suspected that there might be some kind of mismatch between the invader and its newly invaded range, for example something about the toads' behaviour that makes them vulnerable to a predator that poses little danger to native frogs."

Through a series of laboratory experiments, Team Bufo looked at when the ants, frogs and toads were most active, where they chose to live, and how good the frogs and toads were at escaping attacking meat ants. They found cane toads opt to live in open microhabitats and are active during the day, patterns that match those of meat ants. By contrast, native frogs are nocturnal and are safely ensconced in vegetation or other shelters during the day, when meat ants are on the hunt.

Cane toads are also less well equipped to escape attacking meat ants, Team Bufo found. Using a specially-built runway, they tested the frogs' and toads' sprint speed and endurance. They found that compared with the quick and nimble native frogs, cane toads' hops are shorter and slower due to their shorter shin bones. Native frogs were also more vigilant for meat ants than cane toads, they discovered.

The results are interesting not only because they reveal the cane toad's Achilles' heel – a weakness that could be exploited to help control the spread of the toxic toad – but because the same "evolutionary trap" could be used to snare invasive species elsewhere.

"The end result of this mismatch between traits of metamorph cane toads, which evolved in the Americas, and the ecological interaction between metamorph toads and meat ants in tropical Australia, is an 'evolutionary trap'. That is, characteristics that increased toad survival where they evolved in the Americas are now a disadvantage, because the toads are facing different challenges in Australia – challenges they have not evolved to deal with. Such evolutionary traps should be especially common for invasive species, because so many aspects of their environment differ from those in which the traits of that species evolved," says Shine.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Wiley-Blackwell. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Georgia Ward-Fear et al. Maladaptive traits in invasive species: in Australia, cane toads are more vulnerable to predatory ants than are native frogs. Functional Ecology, Online 31 March 2009 DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-2435.2009.01556.x

Cite This Page:

Wiley-Blackwell. "Aussie Meat Ants May Be Invasive Cane Toad's Achilles' Heel." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 1 April 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/03/090330091601.htm>.
Wiley-Blackwell. (2009, April 1). Aussie Meat Ants May Be Invasive Cane Toad's Achilles' Heel. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 20, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/03/090330091601.htm
Wiley-Blackwell. "Aussie Meat Ants May Be Invasive Cane Toad's Achilles' Heel." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/03/090330091601.htm (accessed August 20, 2014).

Share This




More Plants & Animals News

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Possible Ebola Patient in Isolation at California Hospital

Possible Ebola Patient in Isolation at California Hospital

Reuters - US Online Video (Aug. 20, 2014) — A patient who may have been exposed to the Ebola virus is in isolation at the Kaiser Permanente South Sacramento Medical Center. Linda So reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Flower Power! Dandelions Make Car Tires?

Flower Power! Dandelions Make Car Tires?

Reuters - Business Video Online (Aug. 20, 2014) — Forget rolling on rubber, could car drivers soon be traveling on tires made from dandelions? Teams of scientists are racing to breed a type of the yellow flower whose taproot has a milky fluid with tire-grade rubber particles in it. As Joanna Partridge reports, global tire makers are investing millions in research into a new tire source. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Unsustainable Elephant Poaching Killed 100K In 3 Years

Unsustainable Elephant Poaching Killed 100K In 3 Years

Newsy (Aug. 20, 2014) — Poachers have killed 100,000 elephants between 2010 and 2012, as the booming ivory trade takes its toll on the animals in Africa. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Awesome New Camouflage Sheet Was Inspired By Octopus Skin

Awesome New Camouflage Sheet Was Inspired By Octopus Skin

Newsy (Aug. 19, 2014) — Scientists have developed a new device that mimics the way octopuses blend in with their surroundings to hide from dangerous predators. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins