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History and biology


Hear the call of the Cane Toad

 

Cane toads in Australia

Cane toad, photo by J Pumpars

Source: John Pumpars

Cane toads are native to Central and South America and were introduced into Australia from Hawaii in 1935 to stop Greyback Cane Beetles and French's Cane Beetle that were destroying sugar cane crops in northern Queensland. Since that date, cane toads have spread throughout Queensland, into New South Wales, Northern Territory and recently into Western Australian and the Kimberley region. Amazingly, it took only 10 years for cane toads to reach Brisbane, but 65 years to reach the World Heritage listed Kakadu National Park in the Northern Territory. They can live in a wide range of habitats, including mangroves, freshwater creeks and rivers, beaches and sand dunes, rainforests, coastal heath, grasslands and woodlands. They are occasionally found hitch-hiking in freight vehicles, garden pots and outdoor garden items.

Cane toad biology and breeding

Cane toad, photo by J Pumpars

Source: John Pumpars

Cane toads can survive in relatively harsh conditions in contrast to many of our native amphibians (frogs) in Australia. However they do require access to water for survival and for breeding. Cane toads eat almost anything they can swallow, including beetles, crickets, honey bees, native frogs, lizards, small snakes, and some small mammals. They also eat smaller cane toads, pet food and dung beetles. They are most active during the night in warmer months, and shelter during the day under rocks and logs, in shallow depressions and moist areas (such as under plants). They can survive in temperatures ranging from 5C to 40C but rely on water to avoid desiccation and heat stress.
They can breed from the age of about 12 months and in almost any still or slow flowing water body, including slightly saline water. Breeding usually occurs between September and March, and females lay between 8,000 and 35,000 eggs at a time. They can produce two clutches a year, which means populations can increase in size very quickly once females are reproductively mature. However, less than 1% of young cane toads reach maturity.  

Cane toads are poisonous in all stages of its life cycle, from eggs to adults. When threatened, cane toads produc
e a whitish coloured poisonous toxin from the paratoid glands on their back. Animals that mouth or attempt to eat cane toads usually ingest the toxin and suffer lethal poisoning. Native animals that have been killed by cane toads include Quolls, goannas, snakes, egrets, birds of prey, dingoes, freshwater crocodiles, and owls. Some native predators have learnt to eat the tongue and underbelly of the cane toad to avoid consuming the toads toxins.

More information

 
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