New tool in cane toad fight

31 Aug, 2011 09:46 AM

AUSTRALIAN scientists have identified a new potential weapon in the battle to control invading cane toads in Australia.

Professor Richard Shine from the University of Sydney led the study, which found a way to affect the growth of tadpole by using its own chemicals.

When cane toad eggs are exposed to this particular chemical emitted from tadpoles, the offspring from those eggs were less likely to survive.

Those exposed also grew much slower than a normal cane toad, developing into small toads, unlikely to survive in the wild.

These tadpoles would also be much more vulnerable to predation, being half the size of a regular cane toad and significantly weaker.

Professor Shine, one of the country's leading researchers into the impact and control of the cane toad, said that the findings means that native species would not be affected if this were to be implemented.

Ben Scott-Virtue, field coordinator at the Kimberley Toad Busters welcomed the research which he said backed up his belief that toads needed to be stopped from a minimalistic level and using a variety of approaches.

"It really is the most effective way, if you can get them in the egg stage then that is fantastic," Mr Scott-Virtue said.

He said the toads had made it past Kununurra, and were now about 30 kilometres west of the Kimberley town.

At the peak of the wet season, hundreds of adult toads could be found in one night but that number had reduced dramatically in recent weeks with "toad busters" struggling to find a dozen at previous hotspots.

He said it was always going to be a battle when trying to eliminate "the most fertile animal on face on the planet" and he was confident that research such as Professor Shine's would eventually lead to their demise.

Professor Shine said that ideally his research would be used with a combination of other tools to combat the toad spreading, while also being used locally in Queensland to reduce numbers and eventually eliminate

"I am hopeful that this will be a component of the strategy," he said.

"There is a lot of research being done on this; this is just one of them and a combination of them has got all sorts of potential.

He said the next step was to work out what the chemical actually was, and to ensure it had no negative implications on other fauna.

Professor Shine's findings are being published in the Royal Society's Biology Letters today.



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