They’re big, they’re poisonous and now cane toads are getting even stronger.
While Australians have been preoccupied with coronavirus, the world’s largest toads have been busy bulking.
And their hard work is paying off.
A new study, published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society journal and released on Wednesday, revealed the notorious pests – known for poisoning pets and wildlife – have been growing in leaps and bounds as they have spread into new parts of Australia.
As part of their research, scientists from The University of Sydney, the Australian National University and Macquarie University, measured the size of toads in different regions.
They found the toads that had invaded new areas had longer limb bones, larger hind feet and smaller front feet relative to their body, while toads living in the spot from which they originated tended to look more like their smaller South American ancestors.
For Australian wildlife, this is a major worry.
This means cane toads invading new areas often evolve to become more efficient, allowing them to spread faster into new regions.
Why are cane toads such a problem?
Like growing teenagers, cane toads are known for their voracious appetite.
They’ll eat almost anything, from insects to small prey, making them an ideal amphibian for controlling pests.
Or so we thought.
Cane toads were introduced to Australia in 1935 with the intention of controlling pest beetles in the sugar cane industry.
Their plan backfired.
It turned out the cane toad has deadly poison glands on its skin that can kill many animals, both wild and domesticated.
They’re especially dangerous to dogs, and have been known to kill humans who have eaten them or soup made from boiled eggs.