Cane toads do better in Australia than in their homes in South America because the competitors that keep them in check don’t exist here, say scientists.
Reid Tingley at the University of Melbourne and colleagues investigated whether the success of the cane toad Rhinella marina in Australia is due to a change in its niche.
The authors found that in its native South American range the toad occupies a smaller niche than is possible, likely due to interactions with a closely related species.
However, in Australia, where co-evolved species are absent, the poisonous toad has found its ideal niche.
The study provides insights into how species interactions can shape species distributions. The authors suggest their method could help management strategies for invasive species and for species responding to climate change.
Cane toads extends were deliberately introduced to Australia from Hawaii in 1935 to control scarab beetles which were pests of sugar cane.
So far, little has been found to stop the toad’s advance from northern to southern Australia.
The results are the study are published in the journal PNAS.
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